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Fiction

FICTION
STORIES Original fiction.

This story is placed here by permission of the author.

Worlds of the Rilm

by Roger Farnham

On a planet far off in the remote reaches of space there once existed a race of super-salesbeings.

To the Rilm (as in film), selling was more than just a way of making a living. It was, in fact, their reason for living. It was their religion, the root of their culture, their finest achievement, and their greatest pleasure. It was often said that the Rilm would rather sell than mate, and, like most sayings, there was more than a grain of truth in it. Of course, as some beings from other planets observed, if that were the case, then the Rilm were one hell of a bunch of salesbeings since they were constantly having problems with overpopulation.

The others were right; the Rilm were fantastic salesbeings! It was rumored that they could sell water to a planet ravaged by floods and sand to a world that was plagued by dust, and the rumors were true From the Rilmian equivalent of dirty books to hyper-driven spaceships, from single-celled animals to complete ecological systems, from children's toys to entire planets, the Rilm sold it---and profited.

But profit alone was not an end to the Rilm, merely a means. All the gains from their multitudinous sales were plowed back into the business of making new somethings to sell. Always and ever they lived to send new products to the marketplaces of the universe. Such was their genius that, running out of something to sell, they would invent, create, or synthesize a new something-or-other to fill the need----any need, anywhere.

If, on the other hand, they had a product but no buyers, they were perfectly capable of creating a world of buyers clamoring to buy. On more than one occasion they had raised a race from a state of near savagery to a high level of culture----and need----and greed. Such a race as the Rilm had never existed before, nor will again.

:::

Thus it was in the Rilm-year of 2309 (while a thin cloud of dust and gases in one arm of the Milky-way Galaxy made up its mind to form a solar system and began to do so) that Gixix, the head of Trans-Rilm Industries, called for his aide.

"Kom," Gixix telepathed to him. "Our sales are down almost one one-thousandths of one percent this year, and we need something new to pep up our sales. Something to bring those old Glushas rolling back into the bank."

"Right-o, Pappy," Kom sent back in a tone that made Gixix's crillik curl. "We surely do."

Gixix twisted a few hundred yards of his body into a more comfortable configuration before he replied.

"Now," he sent. "What can we come up with that had not been on the market before?" He pondered for some time. "Frankly, I'm stumped."

"Want me to alert the Big Brains?" Kom ventured.

Gixix scratched absentmindedly at the newly-forming lumps on his anterior surface and nodded as well as a being with no neck and no discernable head can nod.

"It might be best. I would call them from here, but they probably have their suppressors operating. Send in Herf, Lopik, and Chimox for a start. Oh, and on your way back to your office, stop in and see Professor Merm and find out how his latest experiment is coming along."

"Bingo, Pops! On my way!" Kom sent, as he shanged out the portal.

Gixix winced at the reckless velocity with which the younger Rilm traveled. True, it was only a slow walk/crawl/slither, but on a planet where the yet-to-be-formed planet Jupiter would only qualify as a small moon, it was the ultimate in high-speed personal movement.

As the portal closed behind Kom, Gixix scratched at the itching lumps again. If Kom had not been his offspring from his next-to-last cluster, Gixix told himself, he would have fired the young upstart years ago.

An especially-sharp twinge from one of the expanding lumps caused Gixix to scratch irritably. He hoped that this group of cluster-children would not interfere with his running of the company. Being a father/incubator was not all it was cracked up to be, he considered gloomily. This would teach him to fool around with his secretary, Miss Torb, he supposed. At least it would teach him to be more careful. He should leave her strictly alone, he knew, but when she wiggled her viltch the way she did��..

He jerked his thoughts back from Miss Torb's lovely viltch as the portal recessed itself. Herf entered the room followed closely by Lopik. Gixix focused a few dozen of his optical receptors on the pair, leaving the others retracted or looking elsewhere.

"Where's Chimox?" he asked.

Herf gestured quietly. "He regrets that he will be detained for a short while. He was forced to accelerate his metabolism and speed up to the point where he would be capable of speaking to the Rewom."

"Who are the Rewom?" Gixix asked.

"They bought one of the Creel-464 planets," Herf sent.

"Creel-464-A9, to be precise," Lopik volunteered.

"Oh, yes," Gixix nodded. "One of our reconditioned worlds. The previous owners died off from a plague or something?"

"Drik-rot," Herf sent, shuddering slightly. "Nasty stuff."

"Well," Gixix persisted. "What's the problem? Didn't we sterilize it well enough before we sold it?"

Lopik waved an appendage to show that this was not the case. "Nothing like that," he answered. "They claim that we short-changed them on some of the elements."

"Did we?"

"Of course not!" Lopik telepathed, several of his antennae erect to indicate mild displeasure at the question. "We are very careful. They got everything they paid for, but they're being nasty about the whole thing. They're even threatening to make everything they need for themselves and not let us sell to their planet anymore."

"WHAT!!!!!" Gixix paled to a mauve as the shock hit him.

"They are only joking, I'm sure," Herf tried to calm him.

"Mighty poor joke," Gixix observed as his color slowly returned to normal. "Can't you read their minds or something and find out?"

"Against the rules, you know," Lopik sent gently. "Besides, they bought a telepathy suppressor from Inter-Rilm Enterprises and they will only negotiate within the cone of its influence."

"Sneaky," Herf commented as he ingested a container of Xiz, his favorite beverage. "But what else can you expect from a bunch of matter-eaters? Give me a planetful of energy-absorbers any day. No waste material lying around, no need to stop and eat. Why, I tell you--

"Yes, I know," Gixix cut him off. Herf was one of his best workers, but a bit strange in his feelings on certain things. For instance, he always championed the cause of the inhabitants of the Universe whoe were gained their energy by direct absorption, while putting down those who were matter-consumers; completely ignoring the fact that he, himself, was a matter-consumer. Well, (no pun intended) no matter, he was still one of the most creative and thoughtful of the Rilm and he did his share.

Gixix swung one of his appendages into place and scratched at a particularly bothersome itch. He sighed with relief as he hit the spot. Trying to ignore the growing lumps was very difficult, but Gixix was a business-being first and an incubator second. He turned his attention back to his business and his waiting employees.

"Now," he began. "I called you in here for a good reason; that reason being----." He was cut off in mid-thought by the arrival of Chimox .

"Sorry I'm late," Chimox apologized.

"Get everything settled?" Gixix chafed at the lumps again.

"Not to worry," Chimox sent smugly. "I simply assured the hyper-active little things that we would send them a few shiploads of radioactives and they calmed right down. With luck they'll use the stuff to wipe themselves out in an atomic war and then we can repossess the planet for non-payment."

"Very good," Gixix applauded. "Very good, indeed."

"Thank you," Chimox sent. He looked at Gixix carefully. "By the way, I see that you're expecting again. Congratulations."

"Hum, ah, yes---thank you." Gixix shivered with delight as he hit an especially-itchy spot and rasped at it in ecstasy. "This is my last cluster, though. Next time I'll remember to take my Pill."

The others all nodded their sympathy and sent little wisps of thought to let him know that they all knew how he felt. While they waited, Chimox used the time to launch into a lecture about how they needed a better way of communicating with those creatures that lived at a different rate than did the Rilm.

"Switching from slow to fast and back again is tiring. We need some sort of gadget to help us," he concluded.

"Yes, to be sure," Herf agreed.

"Only problem is," Chimox commented, "who, besides we Rilm, would buy the thing?"

There was a long pause while the others absorbed the comment, thought about it, and agreed that making something that would not sell was heresy.

"Enough of this," Gixix was back in control. "We have more pressing problems. As I was sending, before I was interrupted, Gentle-Rilm---we are in trouble."

"What sort?" Herf queried.

"We have run out of new products to sell." Gixix sent soberly.

"WHAT??!"

"WHAT??!!"

"WHAT?? ! ! ! "

"Frightening isn't it?" Gixix agreed. "Unfortunately, however, it is the truth. I have already alerted the design department and am expecting word from Professor Merm at any time. He promised me that his new experiment would revolutionize----------."

There was a sudden low moaning from the telepathy suppressor, indicating that a mental probe was trying to penetrate the shielding that protected the office from spies. Gixix switched it off.

"Yes?"

"Professor Merm for you, sir," came the velvet thoughts of Miss Torb. "Should I relay for you?"

"No!" Gixix sent emphatically. "There might be someone listening in. Have him come over, if he will be so kind."

"Yes, sir. I'll ask him." There was a short pause. "He will be over this afternoon."

"Good." Gixix reactivated the shielding and turned his attention back to the waiting trio. "Now, even if Professor Merm's latest brainchild is a winner, we still need more ideas and products. Any of you have anything?"

Herf was motionless indicating that he had nothing. Chimox just shrugged a few dozen assorted appendages and shook his head. Lopik nodded slowly.

"Yes, Lopik?"

"Well, it's just an idea, you understand. Just a little something off the top of my skibs, but----what about Eternal Life?"

"Belk over at RilmCo has that ready to hit the market shortly. Not really eternal, of course. Just a few million years, but not bad, not bad."

"Be good for some of the short-lived customers," Chimox observed.

"What about long-distance teleportation?" Herf asked. "All we have now is short-range stuff, 60,000 light-years or so per jump. Takes forever to get anywhere with such short jumps."

"No good," Lopik said. "Rumor has it that Rilmtech has a nearly-infinite-jump unit just waiting in the wings."

"Why are they holding it back?" Herf questioned.

"They want to dump all their short-range units first."

"That makes sense," Gixix commented. He swung several of his optical sensors to cover each of them. "Anything else?"

There was a general negative indication.

"Okay. Sleep on it, and I want all of you back in here the first thing in the morning with some sure-fire ideas. We can't keep depending on Professor Merm to bail us out all the time."

As the three left the office Gixix relaxed and rang for Miss Torb. She was partly responsible for his delicate condition, he decided, so the least she could do was to help him scratch.

:::

As morning dawned the next day the four Rilm gathered in Gixix's office again. Herf, as usual, looked a little droopy around the egaps, but he would recover as soon as he was completely awake.

"Well," Gixix demanded. "You've had all night. Anything?"

Chimox was the only one who bothered to answer, and he did it with one word, "Sorry."

"Well, I have!" Gixix announced. "Professor Merm has a new invention and, from what he tells me, it is something totally unbelievable."

"What is it?" Herf asked.

Gixix turned a half-dozen assorted sensors on him. "Haven't the faintest," he admitted. All he would tell me is that it would solve all of our problems from now on." He swiveled an optical sensor toward the clock, a polyhedron with fifty-three numbers arranged on its facets and planes. "Merm said that he would be ready to show it to us this afternoon."

Late that afternoon they assembled at the laboratory that Trans-Rilm provided for Professor Merm. He ushered them in and conveyed the courtesy expected between a being and his employers. While they made themselves comfortable he went to a cabinet and took out a small container of soft, gray powder. Proudly he sat it on the lab table in front of them and stood back with a satisfied air.

"Gentle-Rilm," Professor Merm offered, "My new invention. I call it----," he paused for effect. "Inertom."

"Why?" Chimox wondered.

"Why Inertom? Or why is it my new invention?" Professor Merm queried.

"Why Iner---uh, whatever?"

"Simple," Merm sent. "I call it Inertom because it's composed of inert atoms."

"What does it do?" Herf questioned.

"Nothing," Professor Merm answered. "It's absolutely chemically inert. It won't mix with anything, and it won't react with anything. All it does is lie there and mind its own business."

"What good is it then?" Gixix enquired.

"Well," the Professor admitted, "it's also an electronic sponge."

"A what?" Gixix and Chimox demanded together.

"An electronic sponge."

Lopik nudged the container of Inertom. "Of what use is an electronic sponge?"

Merm looked at him with a single receptor. "It changes."

"Whee," Herf commented dryly.

"Let me explain" Merm explained. "As you know, Atoms are made up of electrical charges. Inertom has no charge. What it does is to absorb energy and use the electrons to change its inert atoms into some kind of un-inert or active atoms How you hook it up, and a few other things, determines what kind of atoms you get. In effect it takes electrons and uses them to transform itself into any type of material that you request."

"And it works?" Lopik looked sceptical.

"Oh, my, yes," Professor Merm beamed. "So far I have used it to make a sample of every known element. And, while I was experimenting, I discovered sixteen new ones." He lookead around at them. "Would you like to see it work?"

"Yes," Gixix sent. "Let's see it work. I'm curious."

"Certainly." Professor Merm carried the container of gray powder over to another bench and busied himself with hooking up hundreds of conductors between the container and a small piece of equipment that was only a few hundred yards across.

Herf touched one of the yards-thick cables with an appendage. "Why such fine wires, Prof.?

"Seems to work best that way," Professor Merm responded. "A bigger wire doesn't seen to make good contact. I must admit, though, that these hair-sized wires are a pain to work with."

He made the last connection and turned to the piece of equipment. He manipulated a few controls and read a couple of indicators, then turned to Gixix.

"What do you want?"

"We can have anything?" Gixix telepathed.

"Anything simple and within reason. It has to be a single element though. I still haven't worked all the bugs out yet."

"Well," Gixix pondered for a few minutes. "How about some Morch?"

"Morch, it is." Professor Merm twisted some dials and flipped a couple of switches.

Everyone watched the container of Inertom carefully. There was no sound, no indication of any kind. The Professor did the Rilmian equivalent of frowning and batted the equipment a few times. Immediately there was a soft humming.

"Used a calibrated hammer," he grinned.

The humming grew in power and depth but there was still no change in the soft gray powder.

"Nothing's happening," Lopik observed.

"Wait for it," Merm grumped. "'Muckvingle wasn't constructed in a day', you know."

"Awful slow," Chimox grumbled.

The powder shifted slightly. "It's starting," Merm sent. "Keep your optical receptors on it. Just a minute---there you go."

The powder shifted-more quickly, moving and running like a liquid. It bubbled and swirled and suddenly changed into a lump of heavy, dense, yellowish Morch.

"Amazing!" Gixix exploded.

"Fascinating!" Herf echoed.

"I don't believe it!" Chimox stated.

"Wow!" Lopik commented.

They spent the rest of the afternoon watching containers of gray powder turn into samples of various elements. They were all solids and, as Professor Merm explained, all single elements and all chemically pure.

As the four were leaving the lab, Gixix turned to the Professor. "What about liquids and compounds?"

Merm scratched his chin(?) ,and thought for a moment. "I don't know. I can't do it with that piddly little battery box. Maybe if I hooked it up to a computer------ "

"Order whatever you need, Professor Merm. Spend whatever you need to make it work. You'll work it out. I have faith in you. In the meantime we can start selling one-hundred percent pure chemical elements. Perfect!"

:::

Time passed as it always does, and, while Professor Merm experimented and Gixix itched, that cloud of dust and gas in the Milky-way quit fooling around and began to acquire a roughly-spherical shape.

It was several Rilm-months later that Professor Merm contacted Gixix.

"I've done it!" he sent strongly, his thought waves quivering with excitement.

"Wonderful!" enthused Gixix. "We'll be right over."

A short while later Gixix led Lopik, Chimox, Herf, and Kom into the lab and marveled at the changes that had been made. In the ensuing Earth-centuries (Rilm-months are looooong) the lab had been transformed. One wall was now lined with the panels and components of a computer that was huge, even by Rilm standards. Myriad cables looped and snaked around, and into, a gigantic box that was filled to the top with the Professor's gray Inertom.

Gixix was almost jovial as he waited. His last group of cluster-children had been born a few days earlier and the itching that had plagued him for so long was over. He stretched and luxuriated in the feeling of well-being that permeated his body. Existence was good, he decided. Now, if the Professor could only work his promised miracle, all would be well.

After welcoming his visitors, Professor Merm programmed the computer to create a few simple elements He pressed a switch and they waited expectantly. Nothing happened.

He pushed another button. A small panel on the face of the computer opened and a hammer on the end of a servo-arm slid out, whacked the computer several times, and slid back inside.

There was an immediate reaction from the computer as lights began to flash and a whining hum filled the air. After a few seconds the gray powder turned into slick, smooth Grillim. The assembled Rilm applauded.

"Now watch!" Professor Merm moved a control and there was a sudden pinging sound.

"What happened?" Gixix looked into the box of powder. "What happened to the Grillim?"

"I converted it back into its original form," Merm glowed. "I have found a way not only to change Inertom into something, but also to change the something back into Inertom."

"What good is that?" Kom wondered.

"My boy, it's wonderful!" Gixix smiled(?). "You can make something and not worry about making too much of it. Anything that's left over can just be changed back. "Then, when you need something different, just change it again."

"That's really good, Professor," congratulated Chimox. "It should be worth a fortune."

"Yes," chimed in Gixix. "But what about compounds? Can you do those yet?"

"Certainly." Professor Merm twisted some knobs, twitched some levers, punched some buttons, and thumped the computer a few times for good luck.

The humming came again and the powder went into its long, drawn-out changing act. Suddenly the container was filled with liquid. Merm accepted the congratulations of the others, and then put the computer on automatic.

Time after time the powder changed into something and then changed back. Compound after compound, both liquid and solid, came and went under the prodding of the computer. Finally, for a spectacular ending, Merm took over control again and had the computer create several compounds at the same time.

The compounds met, and mixed, and did not agree. They made the disagreement known.

"Not bad," Herf commented as they crawled out of the wreckage of the lab. "Pity about all that equipment getting blown up, though."

"Not bad at all," Gixix sent happily. "We have a new explosive to sell."

Now that Professor Merm had worked out most of the bugs, Gixix turned the Inertom over to his sales and marketing department.

Groz, head of advertising, promptly changed the name of the product from 'Inertom' to 'Transformium', which was longer but had more sales appeal. In no time Transformium was the wonder of the known Universe, and Trans-Rilm was the top company on Rilm.

Gixix had the Galaxy by the tail and was pulling for all he was worth. He was so happy that he forgot his Pill again and ended up with another itching cluster of children under his skin.

For several Rilm-years the seemingly-insatiable market was kept busy with new products from the never-ending magic of Transformium, but finally sales began to drop off, and Gixix called for another council of his directors.

To his credit, Kom was the only one to conceive the idea of making complete worlds to suit.

"Why sure, Pappy," he sent happily. "We just whip up a basic ball of good, old Transformium and sell it. The guy who buys it does all the real work. Besides, that way there ain't any way he can claim we cheated him."

"That's very true," Gixix pondered. "I suppose it might work. However-----."

"I think it's a great idea," Chimox broke in. "No more guarantee squabbles, complete satisfaction every time, no having to shift metabolism to talk to some high-speed customer. It's great!"

"Welllllll---- " Gixix was unconvinced.

"I quite agree," observed Lopik. "Very good idea."

"Me, too." Herf put down his cup of Xiz. "We'll beat everybody to the market."

"Anything else?" Gixix swept the room with his sensors, leaving a few pointed at each of the others as he went by. "So all of you like the idea, eh? Well, so do I, but there are a few little problems, like;" he counted off the problems on an appendage, "Where do we put the planets after we make them? Where do we get the Transformium from? It has to be made out of something, you know. How do we keep beings from just moving in and taking over without paying? And, last but not least, if we add them to an existing planetary system, how in blivver do we keep from glolming up the gravity balance of the system?"

"Details, Pops. Just details," Kom sent. "You and your big brains here can figure out anything. What a sales-campaign this is gonna be! Wow!"

:::

The prophesied problems arose and were beaten into submission as idea after idea came to the fore. Off in the Milky-Way the dust cloud was gone, and a new solar system shone brightly. In a few million years at least one of the planets might amount to something.

It took a full ten Rilm-years before Trans-Rilm was ready to start selling their custom-made worlds. When the news hit the Universe it was greeted with an enthusiasm that could hardly be believed. Now each species could have a world that suited it and its culture perfectly. Each being could dream of having its own dream-planet; one that was just the way they wanted it, down to the last grain of dust. Not only that, but he could have it anywhere that he chose. Even the price was low. After all, who could top a planet as a sales-gimmick?

:::

Gixix was happier than he could ever remember being. Along the way to cornering the market they had not only refined Transformium to a state that was better than they had ever dreamed possible, but they had invented an automatic mass/gravity compensator, a computer that was capable of reading minds and learning, an automatic translator that converted any language to any other, a preserving device that held the planet in "store-fresh" condition until it was sold, a way of making the changes instantaneous, and a number of other improvements.

Yes, Gixix was happy. He had thousands of worlds, in a number of different types and styles, scattered thoughout the Universe. Best of all, the Transformium was getting cheaper to manufacture every day.

He was still ruminating happily when the Rilm-sun suddenly (to the Rilm) went into a completely unexpected Supernova, the light of which would reach the spot in the Milky-way, where the dust-cloud had been, just in time to lead three Wisemen to a stable in a little town in Jerusalem.

RILM WORLD #1 (TYPE A-1)

DISCOVERED BY: WILLIAM H. JOHNSON

Statistics: Single-change world/one entity control. Circles small, rather unimportant sun in quadrant L9. Found by accident.

Bill "Garbagemouth" Johnson was a spacescout's spacescout. He was fast, he was flashy, he was fearless, and he cursed with every breath. It was rumored that, when he emerged into the world for the first time, he had sworn at the doctor and then made a filthy comment about where he had just been. Whether that was true or not, everyone who had the misfortune of talking to him knew that he had the foulest mouth in the known Universe.

An upstanding example of manhood he was not, nor was he particularly kind to animals, old ladies, or children, but he was a top-quality scout. Maybe that was why Fate decided to let him be the first human to discover one of the multitudinous planets constructed by the legendary Rilm. He was not, of course, aware that he was making a special kind of history when he did it, since nothing of this magnitude had ever occurred before.

The long-deceased Gixix, late chairbeing of the gigantic Trans-Rilm Industries, had arranged it so that his planets would remain undetectable to most beings until such time as the beings had purchased the planet. But he had not reckoned on the fact that humans had a habit of doing things in a way that confounded all normally-intelligent beings. How could he? At the time the Rilm sun went Supernova, humans did not exist.

Be that as it may, Johnson was outbound when his sensors suddenly picked up indications of a planet where there should not have been one. As luck (or Fate) would have it, he was on a communication beam back to his base when he spotted it.

"Well, I'll be a $$$$" (a possibility only if his mother was canine), he said. "There's a #### (has to do with reproduction of the species) planet out here, and there ain't supposed to be. Now what the /////// (a warm spot, anytime) do you think of that?"

"Check your sensors, Johnson," the base operator said. "You could be reading them wrong."

"Aw, go &&&&& yourself (a physical impossibility for Earthmen). The sensors are working fine. It's a planet all right. I'm going closer."

He reprogrammed the flight computer to take him toward the unexpected find. He dropped the ship into an orbit around the planet and studied the surface closely through his scopes.

It was a featureless, gray sphere, like a titanic cueball. There was no sign of atmosphere or water, no discernible surface features, nothing. It was a space-dwelling neuter.

"Hey, Base," he said. "This is ###### (copulation) crazy.

There ain't no ************ (maternal incest) mountains or nothing on this big #### (illegitimate child)."

"Say again, please," the base operator said. The voice was weak and scratchy with static.

Johnson made a single-digited gesture toward the speaker and, for the first time, was sorry that he was too far away for a vision pickup to work.

"You heard me," he said. "The whole planet is as smooth as a baby's %%%%% (Gluteus Maximus). There ain't nothing there."

Far below him the computer which made up the core of the planet stirred into electronic life after aeons of stasis. It had remained here, with only its life-sensors operating, ever since the Rilm engineers had completed it. Now it detected life and assumed, erroneously, that its new owners were here to take possession. With machine efficiency it snapped off the stasis field that had kept it fresh and ageless for all the Earth-centuries that it had been waiting. It busily began to ready all the sections of itself and, simultaneously, sent out mental probes to check on the life-form that had called it back from its electronic sleep.

In microseconds it had read Johnson's mind and began to translate his words and thoughts. Soon it had learned all it needed to know, and waited only for activation.

"Hey, base. I see something," Johnson said, unaware of the change in the status of the planet. "It's a little tiny @@@@@@@@ (so much for the 7th Commandment) red spot."

"A red spot?" base queried. "Like on Jupiter?"

"Naw," Johnson said. "It's just a little ######## (fornication) thing. I can just barely see it on the scope. I'm going down and check on it."

"You'd better wait," the base operator counseled. "McMillen is on his way with a complete survey ship. He'll reach you in about a week."

"Aw, go get ++++++ed (like nail, only with threads)," Johnson snapped. "I ain't waiting."

Expertly, using skill gained from countless hours of time in space, he swirled his ship down out of orbit and settled it gently beside the gleaming red spot. The spot was only a few hundred yards across but on the featureless plain it stood out like a beacon.

Far underground the massive computer read his mind, ran an intangible probe over and through his body, checked his molecular structure and analyzed his environment. Having read his needs, it acted in keeping with Section 1 of the Prime Directive and made the planet compatible with his form of life. A tiny portion of the planet surface whisked into a variety of gasses, instantly forming an Earth-type atmosphere. At the same time the gravity was adjusted to within .00001 of Earth-normal. In a split-second the planet was ready to provide much of what the living being needed to keep on living.

It was typical of the Rilm that they would include such a basic survival mechanism in all their ready-to-use worlds, and it was even more typically typical that they would also make it a one-shot proposition. The planet would keep you alive in the beginning, but after that it was up to you.

In a state of trembling, electronic readiness the entire planet waited for him to give the activation command; that single burst of thought that would shape this world forever. Whatever Johnson most desired would be given him, but he had to have his mind made up before he activated the change. Though he had no way of knowing it, his new planet was a Type A-1 world and Type A-1 worlds could change only once. It had originally been designed for highly advanced beings who could conceive an entire world, and its ecological systems, and hold all the details in their minds when it was time to activate. Unfortunately, Johnson was not one of those.

He looked at his sensors. "Well, I'll be go-to-///// (that warm spot we talked about) -----air!". He checked it. It was good. Ultra-pure, in fact. Doffing his spacesuit and helmet he cycled the airlock open and stepped out onto the surface.

He approached the red spot carefully. His portable sensor-pak could detect no difference between the spot and the surrounding grayish dust, but he was not convinced. A physical test seemed to be in order. Placing the sensor-pak on the ground he picked up a long-handled metal dipper and reached it across into the red area. Scooping deeply, he lifted some of the dust out of the spot. As soon it was moved out of the spot, the dust changed to gray. When he moved it back, it reverted to red.

Several minutes of testing proved only that the dust on one side of the invisible line was red and on the other side it was gray. Any dust moved across the line immediately changed color. There had to be a reason for this, he was convinced, but what it was he could not fathom.

Finally he reached out and touched the spot and the computer trembled. After a long second Johnson stood and turned to go back to his ship. As he moved, he tripped over the sensor-pak and fell backwards onto the red spot.

"Aw, &&&&&&!" he said.

It was unfortunate that he was lying on the activating spot when he said it, because the computer, always faithful, and always literal, shrugged its electronic shoulders and converted the entire planet.

Johnson and his ship sank without trace.

When McMillen arrived, he found not a gray planet, but a world with a smooth, brown surface. He hovered, checked its composition, filed a claim on the planet, and resigned from space exploration.

He sometimes wonders what happened to Johnson, but he doesn't worry about it too much. After all, he is now quite wealthy. He exports organic fertilizer to the Galaxy.

RILM WORLD #19 (TYPE G-1)

DISCOVERED BY: PAUL MASON

Statistics: Unlimited-change world/one entity control. Only planet circling medium-sized sun. Found by crashing upon.

Paul Mason woke as the first rays of sunlight brushed across his eyelids. He yawned, stretched, and opened his eyes. He squinted a little and the window, set into the thick stone wall of the castle, polarized slightly to cut down the glare.

Immediately his covers whisked out of existence and he stood and walked to the shower stall. He stretched again as his pajamas dissolved under the just-right-temperature water of the shower. Good old G-1(his nickname for the gigantic computer that made up the core of the planet) never missed a cue, he thought.

Paul had a very deep fondness for G-1. It ran the world with gentle benevolence, pampering Paul constantly. Sun too hot? A polarizing screen would cool it off. Weather too cold? Warm air would arrive while he thought about it. Want rain? It was on its way. House too small? A palace would appear.

G-1 controlled everything and did it at the speed of thought. When Paul had notice what was happening and had been afraid, G-1 had soothed him by telling him about itself. Now Paul and the computer were good friends Which was lucky, since everyone else on the ship had been killed when it crashed here. Paul didn't think about the crash much any more. He was too busy.

Paul stepped out of the shower and his personal Valet helped him to dress in a conservative business suit of electric-blue shirt, orange shorts, green tie and transparent jacket. With matching sandals of purple and a yellow-green hat, Paul was ready to face the day.

His valet held the door for him as the butler hurried to serve him his favorite breakfast of chili and sliced bananas A cold mug of beer stood by the plate to help wash everything down. Paul spilled a little chili on his shirt and the fabric instantly changed color to hide the stain.

He finished his chili and bananas, then decided to have some chow mein to complete his meal. Good food for a good day, Paul always said.

When Paul finished eating he strode to the door and heaved the ancient oaken panel aside on screeching hinges. He stepped out into the beautiful summer day and walked to where his Heli waited at the curb.

He sat down and relaxed as his carriers heaved the sedan chair up onto their shoulders and started toward town. Paul wrapped his toga around him more securely to keep the snow off.

When they arrived in town Paul stepped out of the stagecoach and surveyed the sun-baked streets of the little border town. His eyes narrowed against the broiling sun, and the light instantly dimmed slightly. His hand dropped familiarly to the six-shooter slung low on his hip and loosened the gun in the holster. His Stetson was tilted back on his head as he looked over the nearly-deserted street.

No sign of Dan Dalton anywhere.

The silver spurs jingled on his high-heeled western boots as he walked over to the saloon and slammed the swinging doors open. He marched to the bar.

"Gimme some Redeye," he barked at the barkeep.

He downed the raw whiskey at one gulp and reached into his vest pocket for a coin.

"Mason," a rough voice grated from behind him.

Paul whirled.

Dirty Dan Dalton stood poised, his hand near his holstered Colt. "Okay, Sheriff," he snarled. "This is the showdown!"

He grabbed for his gun.

Paul was faster and the energy from his blaster dissolved his opponent into a cloud of gas that drifted off across the spaceport tarmac, dispersing as it went.

"That'll show those Martians that they can't take us over," he said.

Slipping his blaster back into the holster, he walked over to the sleek spaceship that waited nearby and entered the port. He punched the button marked 'Airlock Close', and started up the ladder to his cabin as the engines warmed up.

A sudden gust of wind shook the ship and Captain Mason was caught by surprise as it heeled and rocked.

"Damned land-lubber at the helm," he growled as he wiped the salt-spray from the telescope lens. His grizzled beard bristled in the wind as he peered around the horizon.

Off to the Starboard he could see the masts and sails of the pursuing pirate ship.

"More sail!" he shouted. "Run out the guns."

The sea-cannons roared and sent their round shot flying toward the enemy vessel. They missed cleanly.

"Elevate four, mark two Right three. Fire!"

The field-Howitzer reeled back in its carriage as the 155 mm shell left its muzzle. Dirt flew in front of the enemy emplacement.

"Elevate one! Fire!" Major Mason yelled.

The catapult clattered as the heavy stone left it to crash against the drawbridge. The knight came running up as quickly as his heavy armor would let him.

"Sire! My lord, we must lift the siege. We have lost many men and we cannot take the castle."

"Never!" cried King Paul. "Never! Onward to Victory!" His sword whistled through the air.

Clang! The trident in the man's hand broke as Paulius swung his sword against it. The man fell.

"Mercy!" he begged.

Paulius glanced toward the spot where Caesar sat, his thumbs pointing down.

As the favorite Gladiator of the Emperor, he did not hesitate.

He raised the heavy blade and brought it down. The harpoon sank deep into the whale's body, just behind the blowhole. The whale surged away, dragging the boat with him. Mason wasn't worried. The harpoon was set and the line was tied to it securely. After all these years he had Moby Dick on the line.

"What's that?" he demanded.

"I said that the President is on line three," his secretary said.

He picked up the telephone. "Yes?"

"General," the President said. "The Reds are planning to hit us with an all-out attack at midnight. I am declaring a full Red-Alert."

"Right, Sir," General Mason answered. "I'll take care of it."

He turned to his orderly. Sergeant, tell the men that we ride in ten minutes. Full packs. Geronimo has left the reservation. We'll show them that they can't attack Fort Mason and get away with it!"

He strode to the door and grabbed the handle. It wouldn't open. Locked! He was trapped! Well, the coppers wouldn't take him alive. Not 'Pretty-Boy Paul', most-wanted killer on the East coast. He checked the clip in his Thompson submachine gun. Full and ready to go. He grabbed the door handle again and heaved on it.

The propeller blast threw the door wide. He reached up and hooked his parachute's static line to the wire that ran the length of the shuddering airplane.

"Ready!"

The red light flashed on and he was away, falling toward the Earth far below. His chute snapped open and Paul Mason, Special Agent Z-99, was on his way behind enemy lines. He show those Nazis what a Yank could do.

A yank. Another yank. No good. His air line was fouled on the rigging of the treasure galleon he was exploring. What good was all that gold if he didn't live to enjoy it.

The water darkened above him as a shadow passed overhead. Paul looked up to see a huge octopus settling toward him. The many arms grasped him, wrapping tightly about his chest, squeezing.

The pressure eased as she released him and stepped back. "Gee, it's good to see you again, Honey," she breathed as she unbuttoned her dress and let it slip to the floor. She was naked underneath and he watched avidly-as her smooth, white breasts, her flat stomach, and her silken thighs were exposed to view. She stepped out of the clothing and then stooped to pick it up and tossed it toward the dresser, but it fell onto the windowsill instead. The fabric flopped in the breeze.

"It is a sand storm, mon General," the Legionaire shouted over the flopping and snapping of the tent fabric. "The wind is rising."

"Sheik Abu ben Hassan will escape, for now. But we will get him," promised General Paul Mason, weatherbeaten leader of the French Foreign Legion at Fort Zindernauf. He faced his camel into the wind, feeling it whistle by.

Yessir, they sure could build these babies. Lieutenant Paul Mason of the Dawn Patrol patted the cowling of his Sopwith Camel affectionately. He'd show Baron von Richtofen a thing or two the next time they met, but, for now, patrol was over and it was back across no-man's-land and home for him. He circled the airdrome, doing victory-rolls for the boys on the ground, then lined up on runway and settled in. The wheels touched the grassy field and the biplane rolled slowly to a stop.

Star-Captain Mason switched off the atom-drive and stepped out of the saucer-ship. Now for home.

He took the intercity slide-walk and got off in front of his log cabin home. He went inside and took the elevator up to the penthouse. He looked out over the lights of the city and smiled. It had been a long day. Time for bed.

He turned down the rough, homespun blankets, and smoothed the silken sheets The hammock was comfortable enough, swaying beneath the palm trees, and Paul drifted off to sleep as the sounds of the jungle filled the air.

Deep inside the planet G-1 let its circuits cool. There were times that even the giant computer was hard pressed to keep up with Paul's quickly-changing "reality" but it would continue to do its best. It had often wondered about the ship that had crashed on its surface, bringing Paul with it. There were words printed on the side of the wreckage, but G-1 had no reference with which to compare them. It had probed Paul's mind for an explanation, but the man's brain contained no translation for the words, "Shuttle Number 6, SpaceView Mental Hospital."

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