The city was spectacular, a masterpiece in the art of cities. To one who had never seen a real city in her life, it was overwhelming. Nancy Elanor of Wolf sat at the terrace cafe, and just watched it.

Nancy at the cafe table

To her left, the building fell sheer for a thousand feet or more to a square where the tiny shapes of people passed by, over lawns, and by rows of trees. That may have been the ground level here, but she doubted it. Opposite the drop, across the broad terrace, the soaring tower rose at least as far into the deep blue sky. Near its peak, so high that to look made Nancy's head swim with vertigo, the golden sunlight of the early morning gleamed on the white tower.

The terrace lined a square, about two hundred yards on a side, forming a tiny ledge less than half way up the soaring shaft. Through deep gashes in the walls, the way led on, to the other squares of the city, and along them people swarmed, a. catalogue of the sentient races of the Partnership of Worlds, a nightmare bestiary. There were thousands in sight, more together in one place than she had ever seen before, so many that she could smell a composite musky scent of people. The sounds of footfalls, the rustle of clothes, the patter of conversation were louder than she had really conceived possible, like the ocean smashing against the cliffs, or wind in the trees.

And in her mind, their thoughts swarmed formless, flashes of light, slippery and alive, a sentient rain in her head. She listened to everything wonderingly: all here was new; fresh and exciting, and she revelled in the exercise of her new-realized senses, catching at the thought-flecks, inconsequential disconnected snippets, half vocalized.

She muffled the rush of other people's minds, and in the silence, resumed thinking herself. She sipped elegantly at her coffee and wrinkled her nose. Cateret was indeed crowded, crowded so she could feel and hear, smell see taste and think it, twenty five billion sentients on a planet fractionally larger than Earth. To her, it was unbelievable that people could bear to live on a planet fifteen hundred times as crowded as her native world; and yet they seemed to manage, here and on worlds yet more populous.

A girl emerged from the crowd. She looked around the cafe tables, occupied mainly by breakfasters, pausing to stare at Nancy before continuing the sweep. Nancy took the opportunity to return the compliment. To her mind, the girl wasn't bad looking; slim, small breasted, and not too tall. She wore her black hair in a ponytail, and her sharp alert face hinted at feline qualities. The easy way she walked towards Nancy's table shared that suggestion of cat.

“Do you mind if I sit down?” the newcomer asked.

“No — be my guest. I'll buy.” Though Nancy had gone voluntarily into exile, she could still draw on the Clan's immense credit reserves, built up over the last thousand years, and hardly used. She could afford that much generosity.

The girl ordered a breakfast, making a few exotic choices that surprised Nancy — many of the animals and plants providing the dishes, she had never heard of before, and those that she had, had never been used in that context — things used as savoury that she would have considered sweet, and vice versa.

“I see you haven't been to Seafirth — everyone I eat with thinks the things I eat are funny. I suppose Skerry steaks in coffee is a little unusual. By the way — if I'm going to spend your money, I might as well introduce myself. I'm Nadia Bentley, I'm an academic student in psychophysics.”

“My name's Nancy — Nancy Wolf, from Cimarron. I'm a maths undergrad.”

“Clan Wolf? Or is the hair just for fun?”

“Yeah — I just couldn't figure what colour to have my hair and eyes, so I just left them silver — I can always think of something if I have to.”

“You're not afraid of reprisals? I'd be scared stiff some nut with a grudge would shoot me.”

“I've got no real choice. Anybody determined enough is going to find me if be really wants, and I daren't go home. You read about the troubles — well, the other side got hold of me on Wyvern, and twisted my mind, to make me work to destroy the Clan.”

“Couldn't the Linkers do anything?”

“They daredn't — seems I'm a telepath, and all the rough handling I'd gotten had brought it to the surface. While I'm still working it out, they wanted to keep right out of my mind.”

“Hey — that's great. I can read minds a bit — it's what made me choose psychophysics as my field. I could help if you want.”

Nancy reached for her bag, and the gun she carried. She didn't like the sudden turn of events.

“Prove it — or I'll blow you in two.”

As she spoke, she tried to listed to Nadia's mind, but there was only a blank

Nadia threw a card over to Nancy, an Institute of Worlds ID, bearing out the story to the last detail.

“Sorry,” she said. “I may be out and about, but I still get touchy, when people press me; and the last unsolicited help I received turned out to be the bad guys. I'm still trying to get rid of the do-it-yourself paranoia I had to cultivate during the troubles. A pause, and then : How did you shut your mind off like that?”

“It's all right Nancy… Shut my mind off? no, I'm probe immune. I don't know what I do it just happens that way. There are only a few people who are. You're not one — that's why I came here — I could feel you open, unguarded.

“Didn't the Guild warn you? There are things that can eat your mind, and puppet your husk. They always go for telepaths, beginners with their minds open, and no defences. I could teach you, and keep you safe.”

“That's going to be difficult. I'm only here for today. I'm waiting for a connection to Earth.”

Nadia paused for a few seconds. “To Hell with it she said, I can take what equipment I need with me, and I can write up results just as well shipboard. What ship, what time? I'll go and book.”

Nancy told her, and then watched her disappear into the swirl of people. The breakfast she bad ordered lay on the table scarcely touched. Twenty minutes later, at the conclusion of a very leisurely breakfast, Nancy was about to give up hope and go when Nadia reappeared.

“People,” she said, making it half a curse, half an explanation. “You'd never believe the queues for the public terminals. Not only that — some guy went berserk, shot a few people and dived off the ledge while I was there. It cleared the way to the terminals though. Then the fuzz turn up and want details. If I didn't have my Institute card, I'd still be there.”

A wall of rock, worn by wind and water, vertical structure thrown sharply into relief by the oblique sunlighting, passed by the observation deck of the airship. Its rectangular shadow slipped across the rock far below, receding or reaching up close as the surface contorted.

Nancy looking out from the airship

“You say you're a telepath, Nancy, but how much does that really mean?”

Nancy was leaning on the rail, looking down the wind sculptured surface of rock, strata of buff and red and purple, trying to identify them from the guidebook. Nadia had her back to the edge, looking across the open deck, to the broad expanse of the canyon, where towers of rock cast their shadows into night-dark gorges, or like sundials across open areas. Beyond them, half seen in the shimmer of the horizon, rose snow capped mountains.

“I can catch fragments — if people are close, and verbalise their thoughts, I can read them quite well, if there aren't too many other people about, and then I can stop listening, and that's about all I've tried. There's something else I've noticed too — since about the same time I seem to heal almost instantly — does that always happen to telepaths?”

“Always? I'd never even heard of that happening. Are you sure?”

“Yeah, but I'm not giving demonstrations — it still hurts, and that's more than enough for me.”

“We'll have to see if we can do anything about that. My talent is a bit anomalous, too. I can feel what people are doing when they're using any paranormal ability — if they don't block me — and I've examined quite a range of abilities. One of them could selectively dampen his sensory responses — pain among them. I'll have to try you at that.”

“Mmh.” Nancy turned to her search to identify the Lower Beckman Sandstone, amongst three or four practically identical beds.

By lunch time, they had reached the mountains. The sky was overcast, and the mountains were thickly covered with untouched snow. Rocks and sheer ridges of rock showed as black by contrast. The colourlessness of the scene seemed to drain all warmth from the air, and Nancy shivered, despite the steady cabin temperature of 295.

She cut a mouthful of steak. Its warmth was as welcome as the taste, and the sating of her hunger.

“What are you working on in your research?”

Nadia started.

“Sorry, you startled me. Research, now… she wiped her mouth on her napkin, and swallowed. Linker talent — I'm trying to determine whether the current theory is wrong, or if it's some fault in the practical application.”

“You mean the Coherence Failure?”

“Yeah. It's all very well having a theory predicting an effectively infinite shift radius, but when in practise, we can't keep the tolerances acceptable beyond twenty lites. Things match up fine up to then, but then everything goes haywire. There's not even a noticeably different threshold for different races — at 20.68 lites, when theory suggests uncertainty errors should be less than a hundred meters with five nines probability, things we send through can end up literally anywhere. When the Institute tried it last, they went through a few thousand beacons, moving the receiving station a couple of AU each time.

“There was a five AU band where the beacons surfaced within a couple of lites of the receiver, but after that we had to retrieve them from all the way over the Partnership. There are still sixteen missing, with not a word. They've got an indefinite lifespan, so we might find them when we start exploring other galaxies.

“The coherence bit comes in like this — the average Linker can reach about 3 lites, when you put more together, they can reach further — that's alright, it's expected that units aren't perfect, so when you run them together they can draw on each other's strengths. It's just when you put a fifth Linker in, she isn't able to push the distance up like she should. Instead of going from about sixteen to twenty two lites, the range doesn't budge beyond 20.68. Everything. else; the size of object they can shift, the cycle rate, fatigue, tallies with theory.

“Some people are trying to rebuild the theory from scratch so it incorporates a catastrophe point where practise shows one, and I'm trying to improve the mechanism, to remove it. I'm convinced it's a basically biological failure in the integration process; so that if you could manufacture a series of entities with a, say, twenty five lite range they could form a team with a range of nearly two hundred lites, assuming the same coherence threshold.”

“Have you had any results?”

“Some, but not what I was looking for. I managed to build one which apparently could shift without need of a receiver — it just disappeared one day, so I gave that approach up. I'm just casting about for new ideas now. I may try building the maths to a theory incorporating teleportation — seeing if that forces a coherency limit… Hell. Let's forget this for a while. I'm grabbing a chance for a short break from work to help you, and to do something different. From my work that is.”

“Any suggestions what we should talk about then?”

“We could just be tourists, admire the scenery. Save our conversation for on the ship, when there's nothing much else to do.”

Nancy smiled. “I can think of at least one thing — that's not counting telepathy.”

Nadia sat for a moment with a blank expression, before everything clicked. “Yeah. I'd forgotten that all your Clan were gay, too.”

“Not all. I have an uncle who would resent that accusation.”

The star gate opens

The StarLink station hung in space like a piece of fantastic jewellery; a nine kilometre ring, with at one point, a profusion of globes, spars and planes. Around this efflorescence a swarm of ships hung, some mote-like, others nearly as large as its kilometre span; freighters, liners, even a renovated slowboat a thousand years old, the lifeblood of interstellar commerce.

As Nancy watched from the shuttle window, the ring blinked like an eye. Green, gold and red fire blossomed at its centre, and rushed outwards, framing a view of another world. Ships passed through this tear in space, and then it shimmered. Fire poured into the centre, until the whole ring swam with colour like a soap bubble. Reds vanished towards the edge, blues appeared in the centre, then black, and like a soap bubble, it burst.

The ring grew as they approached, vast, distorted by its own size, and passed out of sight as they entered the faerie growth of the station proper, white in the sunlight, and black almost indistinguishable from space where shadow fell. A gentle bump signified the contact, and an explosive report, the final sealing to hard dock.

Nancy felt Nadia tense as the docking completed, and as soon as they were told that they could debark, she stood up, and hurried against the flow of people to the freight hold. Nancy called her name, but the only response was a muttered See you Something in Nadia's single-minded concern for the safety of the equipment she had brought along, the furtive way that she had both at the ground station and now here, hurried off to supervise its movement, worried Nancy, but she couldn't trace it. It might be some esper sense warning her of something, or the simple tension of blocking the trivial thoughts of thousand thousand thousand minds, paranoia, or the shattered feeling of a crowded bustling day. One thing that was certain, and overrode the concern for Nadia's mental state; and that was the use she could make of her claimed talents — that much of her story she believed.

Nancy followed the last of the rush of people out into the entry concourse. She found an unused terminal there, and checked the status of her luggage, and gave instructions for its loading onto the liner. Even after a few minutes wait, there was no sign of Nadia, so she gave up, and headed down the driftway. There was a strange feeling in passing along the long glowing tunnels of the station, away from the bustle of people in the waiting lounges; a feeling of the strains and fluxes of space-time, like a mighty ocean that could wash away the whole Link station like a seashell if it ever broke through. If that was what she could feel from the conscious minds of Linkers to be one would be awesome. She could understand the high and lonely attitude they maintained, for when one can ride the tides of the Universe, everything else is tired and mundane.

In the soaring weightlessness of the driftways, the borrowed splendour was euphoric, intoxicating; the return to gravity in the liner, an unwelcome, inevitable return to normality. Nadia was there already, waiting in the docking lounge. She seemed completely carefree now, excited like a young girl

“You know,” she said, “this is the first time I've been in space… for almost ten years.”

“I hadn't even been offworld before I left home a couple of months ago. All your gear packed away safely now? You seemed quite concerned about it.”

“I suppose I was; but then it did take me long enough to build — couldn't even use standard parts for most of it had to ship them in from Symbaree and Lisston, some of them. There's a few measurements of Link parameters I want to make test a few ideas of mine. Shall we go to your cabin now?”

“We can — but when we get there, I'm having a hot drink and I'm going straight to bed. Alone. I'm absolutely dead beat now. Might not be a bad idea for you to get some sleep too — you seem a bit edgy.”

“Sure, Nancy. See you tomorrow.”

Nancy walked over to the ship plan to locate her cabin. Edgy had not really been the word to describe Nadia's condition; in heat would be closer, judging by the dilation of her pupils. Pressure of work and a lack of companionship for a long time, and then a sudden, justifiable excuse to get away from it all — almost anyone would overreact in those circumstances, and Nadia had told her as much. No wonder the girl was acting touchy.

“No, no and no!” Nancy's denial broke a long silence. “I'm not doing anything more today. My mind is blown — all over the walls — it aches. We've been working for — what, ten hours now — and what have we proved ? Nothing we didn't know already — except for — what did you call it?”

“Astral projection — I don't know if there's a technical term for it…”

“Well — whatever it was — that's all we've achieved. All the other fancy talents you've tried have ranged from slight promise to not in my line at all.”

“All right, Nancy. We'll call it a halt then; try again tomorrow.”

“Sure. Sorry about that, Nadia — my turn to be edgy tonight. Care for a cup of coffee?”

They were in Nancy's cabin — had been all day. The only light was from the turquoise and white globe in the centre of the transparent wall; the world called Halfhaven, a hundred and eighteen lites from Cateret on the run to Earth. Nadia was sprawled in an armchair in one window corner, Nancy lounged on a sofa facing the window, where, one after another, a series of planets had passed. She stood up, and brushed her hair from her face. A small red light marked the dispenser. She dialled, narrowly missing making a double order for cognac — one black, one with milk and sugar.

She carried the two cups over to Nadia, and handed her one. She perched on one arm of the chair.

“Why aren't you with the Linker's Guild?”

“Planetary politics. The Free Traders opened up Seafirth, and the influence lingers on. The Guild is fine as a monopoly cartel on rapid starflight; but I just don't feel that gives them the right to monopolise every paranormal talent — besides, I have my own life to lead — there are even Linkers who don't work for the Guild — academics, adventurers, and artists mainly. They keep tabs on some of them; others they ignore, others they don't know about. I'm pretty certain I'm in the last class. I don't think they're tracing you, either.

“Take my word for it — that's the way to stay. It's a pity they already know about you — but there are ways of escaping, even from them…”

Nadia's voice trailed into silence. she lay in the chair, completely relaxed, only her eyes alert. The cup of coffee steamed on the table beside her, completely forgotten. Then suddenly as it came, the trance broke.

“Memories.” she said.

“There's no need to get morbid about it. Come on — I know how to stop you worrying — make up for yesterday…”

The room was dark. There were the sounds of movement, ragged gasps, gentle moans.

Unnoticed, the gauzy structure of the Link station, and the gleaming arc of the LinkGate drifted into sight, eclipsing the world there. The liner drifted into the whirlpool that had been ripped into space. Around it, along the entire length of the wormhole, colours played. They could be seen close at hand through the stateroom window-wall, bright and almost metallic, with a streaky structure, fading into absolute black between colours. Though they glowed brightly, there seemed no increase in illumination due to them, only a faint play of colour in the gloom.

An animal noise rent the air; all the more ghastly for having been framed by a human throat. It seemed to have been intended to be a scream, but it was gurgled, and abruptly cut short. There was a violent movement on the bed, and Nancy collapsed to the floor. She crawled away, the light playing on the skin of her back, and screamed, a terrible long sob of a scream. Her breath gurgled, as she staggered to her feet and recoiled into a corner, and half sat, half collapsed there, leaning against a view of the madness outside.

“Thing!” The word was half screamed, half sobbed. Any more was lost in hysterical tears.

Nadia hurried over to her, and slapped her on the face.

“Nancy — listen to me!” she snapped.

Nancy's eyes focused. “A thing,” she gasped between the racking sobs, “A thing, it was in my mind. It hated me — it hadn't been born — It was trying to tear me apart…”

She clung to Nadia for support, and cried until she could cry no more.

Nancy paced through the deserted corridors of her part of the ship, heading from her wedge, now, at 04:30, towards the earlier zones. She was scared, but it was an intellectual sort of fear that assailed her. All gut feelings had been burned out of her earlier, when her mind had been invaded by …something, unknown, but malignant.

Her mind had been quite open while lying with Nadia, her only shielding requiring far too much effort to maintain. Then, without any warning, or build-up, something black had exploded in her consciousness. It struck as an arctic storm would have in that room, and then. there had been a flood of physical sensations, cold, and pain , but they were secondary, side effects of the main burst of malignant hate. Her self had been almost drowned in that outpouring of the dark things of the mind. It was Hell, uncorked and boiling over.

She didn't remember, except by being told about it, what had happened next, but that didn't concern her as much as the actual fact of the event. Nadia hadn't noticed any paranormal activity, though she confessed to being otherwise occupied at the time. She was of the opinion that what had affected Nancy was somehow related to that particular link they had been going through at the time, or possibly had something to do with the attendant circumstances at the time of Link. Nancy's own opinion was that she had been exposed to the depths of her own mind, possibly triggered by any of the prevailing conditions.

Even yet, doped up with anti-hysteria preparations, and in memory there was a shard of recollection that could trigger fright reactions — a vision of unseeing eyes, full of malice, beneath a swelling brow.

She had left Nadia asleep, when, in the early morning she had woken, had dressed, kissed her gently on the lips, and gone out to try and sort her mind out in the winding miles of the ship. She avoided people when she could feel their minds near her, to stay alone with her thoughts.

Then, faint but unmistakable, on the edges of her mind, she felt a whiff, a mere trace of the demoniac mentality that had erupted in her mind; and with it a feel of direction. She followed that elusive wisp of being, keeping it on the threshold of perception, in towards the axis of the ship, and aft.

Here it became impossible to avoid people, where the time-zones mingled and life went on twenty four hours a day: here where all the entertainment functions went on; gambling, dancing, gymnastics, and others. Nancy pushed impatiently through the crowds, trying to ignore the roar of their thoughts, shallow stupid and banal, as she clung to a thought that was a smell of sulphur in her head. She relinquished it only when she had chased it as far as she could, and made certain of its source : somewhere in the hold.

Twenty minutes later she was back at the sealed bulkhead door marked Ship's Hold — Authorised Personnel Only that had ended her previous search. Much of the time had been taken up by convincing Nadia that she had actually contacted something real, and then in going through the paperwork authorising them to inspect Nadia's cargo, ostensibly to check its performance to date.

This time the door opened, and they climbed down a metal ladder into the hold. Nancy cast around for the mind she had followed, and touched it. She felt nauseated by its unclean aura, but moved towards it, down level by level, and past the hulking masses of crates and bales.

That which she sought stood alone in a square space formed by leaving a long gap in one of the rows; and she recognised it at once — or at least its essentials. Beneath the various items added, it was a standard ectogene tank, such as she herself had been born from; and in it, something lived, something utterly malevolent — something unborn.

Nancy has mayhem on her mind

Nancy closed her mind as tightly as she knew how, and looked about for something to smash the unit, and its diabolical occupant. A bundle of metal rods caught her eye, some special alloy according to the label. She pulled one of the rods from the bundle, and held it; it was heavy, about six feet long , and half an inch diameter, and according to the specs, hard, tough and most refractory.

She walked towards the tank, to check the owner's name.

“Nancy — what is it?”

“I've found it. Now get back… Oh my god — you. Why, Nadia?”

“This was my Linker-type entity — the one I said had vanished…” The tone of the voice changed, “But I didn't vanish. I dispossessed her of her body, for cheating me of mine. And now, I'm going to take your body.”

At that last declaration, Nancy felt something click shut at the back of her head, and her legs just seemed to vanish. She swung the bar down with all her might, tearing loose wires and life-support tubes from the central tank. A trickle of blood and amniotic fluid ran down the sides of the tank, before the fail-safes cut the flow. The next swing was aimed at Nadia who had launched herself at Nancy, and she felt ribs give under the blow . She staggered back on wooden legs as the mangled body hit the floor. It landed silently, and writhed across the floor towards her. With a shock, she realized that she had lost her hearing — and was losing more and more control of her body. She brought the bar down with all her strength on the cluster of apparatus, to smash the tank and its occupant — she couldn't wait for anoxia to lay it low.

The plastic of the tank went from an opaque grey to cloudy under the blow. With the berserker rage on her, and scared to the core of her being, she struck again, and again. A great mass of plastic fell away, and the end of the rod came away bloody.

Without warning, she was falling, and she saw that Nadia's body had grabbed her around the ankles. Nancy flung her weapon away as she felt her last ties on her body being torn away, and reached for the dying husk at her feet.

“I'm free — and I am Nancy Elanor of Wolf now.”

Nancy heard her own body mouth those words, as she listened with Nadia's ears. The body felt strange — it was damaged, unfamiliar, her control of it poor, but she dragged it along, and fastened both hands about her own throat, and just hung on. Her adversary poured all its spleen on her, but her mind was too benumbed by its previous attack. It eroded her mind but could not dislodge it.

Then, the universe detonated; and she was carried out on the shockwave of Nadia's exploding consciousness; and when it was none, she found herself floating in some limbo, with only one thing there to be sensed. She reached for it, and was embodied again. Eyes opened, focused — it was her own body, dead on the floor, that she occupied. Dead arms reached up and pushed the hands from her throat. And she breathed.

She lay there, as her body mended, drawing thankfully at the air. She shied from thinking of how close the outcome had been.

“Nancy? Are you all right?”

“Who's that?”

“Me — Nadia. I'm back from Hell. Now for God's sake get me a doctor. The last words were wheezed through gritted teeth, a trickle of blood running from between them.”

Nancy reads a letter

Nancy was alone again, as she had been before. She could work up no enthusiasm for any of the entertainments that the ship could offer, and instead was content to remain in her room, passing her time by reading books or watching films. In the empty moments between, she often picked up and read the hard copy she had taken of the last message she had received from Nadia.

'Sorry,' it began,' but I couldn't stay; I've got far too much work lined up, a whole new line of approach to find. That thing I had grown had been sentient for just three months when we destroyed it; it was only days old when it possessed me, and pushed me into some hell inside me.

'Thanks for letting, me out.

'Love and kisses, Nadia.

'P.S. The institute is paying for this; that's why you don't have to decipher it from compact.

For all that they had been lovers, for all that Nancy had released Nadia from months of imprisonment within herself, they had been like ships in the night, without the real contact required for friendship. Had there been more time, more common ground…

With quiet regret, Nancy dropped the folded sheet of paper onto the table by her chair, and sat staring into the depths of space.

© Steve Gilham 2000
© Mr. Tines 2000

Afterword 1976

The whole idea came from a dream I had in August '76, hearing which caused [one of the Cambridge University SF society writers' workshop group] to accuse me of having a diseased mind. This is how the original inspiration mapped into fixed form.

I saw the picture of the scene on the opening page, including Nancy leaning her elbows on the rail at the edge and looking over. Then my viewpoint seemed to coincide with Nancy's location, and I saw Nadia approach. The surname I made up later, but I knew from that instant that she was called Nadia. Although this was shortly after the Montreal Olympics, and the name probably came from Nadia Comaneci, her appearance was that of her fellow eastern-bloc gymnast Theodora Umgureanu.

The other part I visualised in dream was the denouement. Partly I dreamed I read it in Analog; it was part of a short (about six pages) Telzey Amberdon story. The open double page I saw was the third and fourth of text, and were tinted grey. There was an illustration in the style of Schoenherr occupying just over the upper half of the right hand page. It depicted Nancy, her back turned, feet planted wide, (but out of frame, which came down to about knee height), with the metal rod in hand, drawing it back high over her right shoulder to deliver an oblique chopping blow to the ecto-tank. Nancy was wearing a waistcoat like little jacket and a knee length skirt, her hair was straight, and, not quite shoulder length.

All I can remember of the text is the phrase the shockwave of Nadia's exploding consciousness . There is then a memory of the direct sight of Nancy thrown back into the corner of a room, bathed in a terrible light. this room was about a hundred yards in front of and a hundred yards above where Nancy was sitting in the cafe, coordinates oriented from her initial location.

I waited about a month to commit the story to text, as I wanted to finish [the first draft of] Moving Day first. When I did finally get down to writing it, I inserted the tour of the planet, to use up a couple of picturesque sets, and of logical necessity relocated the showdown in a plot summary that included Nadia's motivation.

Afterword 2000

This was the sort of tale I'd intended to have set Nancy up for, as a novice telepath, and unwitting werewolf. But in order to set that up, I brought in the alien artifact I used in Moving Day to set up a radiation accident and trigger her powers. Alas, it had its own ideas of where things were going; and I ended up with the next — and fragmentary tale

The whole Coherence Failure bit was tacky at the time; I dislike it more at this distance, but need something to give reason for Nadia to be growing psis-in-a-tank. The comments are contradictory of the original source for the interstellar psionic teleport, the StarForce game, and it contradicts other unfinished story fragments from the same setting in which the Linkers retained the source material's ability to transport ships without sender or receiver station. There are some story based reasons in Moving Day for keeping the Linker ability to a fixed-station to fixed-station setting, keeping the rest of interstellar travel to mechanical means; but when I started a Linker-centred story at the time of the Ggappi conflict, about 500 years before the time of the story above, I needed to have the StarForce style properties.

None of the above is compatible with the Linker-as-Transcendi Y2K-epoch reinterpretation. Nor is the story entirely consistent with the secret origin, as she seems now to have changed her skin colour.

Afterword 2024

With the advent of AI art, I could at least approximate the illustrations imagined all those years ago, and do a few more besides. At the same time I also defined that as she was grey skinned in the unfinished Moving Day sequel set about 80 years later along her timeline that she'd still be grey-skinned here, too.

Having not read the afterword, I used Ms. Comaneci as face prototype for Nadia's one on-screen appearance; I may rework it at some point, but one could hardle tell.

© Steve Gilham 2024