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Chapter 14 "NOW WILL YOU TALK?"

  • > Like diamonds, we are cut with our own dust.
  • >
  • > —Webster
  • CRETANS have eyes under their back hair, or let's face it, Entertainers aren'_oldiers. Kaby weaved to one side and flicked a helpful hand and poor old Mau_ent where she'd been going to send Kaby. It sickened me to see the gravit_ake hold and yank her down.
  • I could have jumped up and made it four in a row for Kaby, but I'm not a bi_rave when things like my life are at stake.
  • Lili was starting to get up, acting a little dazed. Kaby gently pushed he_own again and quietly said, "Where is it?" and then hauled off and slappe_er across the face. What got me was the matter-of-fact way Kaby did it. I ca_nderstand somebody getting mad and socking someone, or even deliberatel_orking up a rage so as to be able to do something nasty, but this cold-
  • blooded way turns my stomach.
  • Lili looked as if half her face were about to start bleeding, but she didn'_ook dazed any more and her jaw set. Kaby grabbed Lili's pearl necklace an_wisted it around her neck and it broke and the pearls went bouncing aroun_ike ping-pong balls, so Kaby yanked down Lili's gray silk bandeau until i_as around the neck and tightened that. Lili started to choke through he_ight-pressed lips. Erich, Mark and Illy had come up and crowded around, bu_hey seemed to be content with the job Kaby was doing.
  • "Listen, slut," she said, "we have no time. You have a healing room in thi_lace. I can work the things."
  • "Here it comes," I thought, wishing I could faint. On top of everything, o_op of death even, they had to drag in the nightmare personally stylized fo_e, the horror with my name on it. I wasn't going to be allowed to blow u_eacefully. They weren't satisfied with an A-bomb. They had to write m_rivate hell into the script.
  • "There is a thing called an Invertor," Kaby said exactly as I'd known sh_ould, but as I didn't really hear it just then—a mental split I'll explain i_ moment. "It opens you up so they can cure your insides without cutting you_kin or making you bleed anywhere. It turns the big parts of you inside out,
  • but not the blood tubes. All your skin—your eyes, ears, nose, toes, all o_t—becoming the lining of a little hole that's half-filled with your hair.
  • "Meantime, your insides are exposed for whatever the healer wants to do t_hem. You live for a while on the air inside the hole. First the healer give_ou an air that makes you sleep, or you go mad in about fifty heartbeats.
  • We'll see what ten heartbeats do to you without the sleepy air. Now will yo_alk?"
  • I HADN'T been listening to her, though, not the real me, or I'd have gone ma_ithout getting the treatment. I once heard Doc say your liver is mor_ysterious and farther away from you than the stars, because although you liv_ith your liver all your life, you never see it or learn to point to i_nstinctively, and the thought of someone messing around with that intimat_et unknown part of you is just too awful.
  • I knew I had to do something quick. Hell, at the first hint of Introversion,
  • before Kaby had even named it, Illy had winced so that his tentacles were al_rawn up like fat feather-sausages. Erich had looked at him questioningly, bu_hat lousy Looney had un-endeared himself to me by squeaking, "Don't mind me,
  • I'm just sensitive. Get on with the girl. Make her tell."
  • Yes, I knew I had to do something, and here on the floor that meant thinkin_ard and in high gear about something else. The screwball sculpture Erich ha_ried to smash was a foot from my nose and I saw a faint trail of white stuf_here it had skidded. I reached out and touched the trail; it was finel_ritty, like powdered glass. I tipped up the sculpture and the part on whic_t had skidded wasn't marred at all, not even dulled; the gray spheres were a_listeningly bright as ever. So I knew the trail was diamond dust rubbed of_he diamonds in the floor by something even harder.
  • That told me the sculpture was something special and maybe Doc had had a rea_dea in his pickled brain when he'd been pushing the thing at all of us an_rying to tell us something. He hadn't managed to say anything then, but h_ad earlier when he'd been going to tell us what to do about the bomb, an_aybe there was a connection.
  • I twisted my memory hard and let it spring back and I got "Inversh … bosh … "
  • Bosh, indeed! Bosh and inverse bosh to all boozers, Russki or otherwise.
  • So I quick tried the memory trick again and this time I got "glovsh" and the_ grasped and almost sneezed on diamond dust as I watched the pieces fi_hemselves together in my mind like a speeded-up movie reel.
  • It all hung on that black right-hand hussar's glove Lili had produced fo_ruce. Only she couldn't have found it in Stores, because we'd searched ever_ractional pigeonhole later on and there hadn't been any gloves there, no_ven the left-hand mate there would have been. Also, Bruce had had two left-
  • hand gloves to start with, and we had been through the whole Place with _ine-tooth comb, and there had been only the two black gloves on the floo_here Bruce had kicked them off the bar—those two and those two only, th_eft-hand glove he'd brought from outside and the right-hand glove Lili ha_roduced for him.
  • SO a left-hand glove had disappeared—the last I'd seen of it, Lili had bee_utting it on her tray—and a right-hand glove had appeared. Which could onl_dd up to one thing: Lili had turned the left-hand glove into an identica_ight. She couldn't have done it by turning it inside out the ordinary way,
  • because the lining was different.
  • But as I knew only too sickeningly well, there was an extraordinary way t_urn things inside out, things like human beings. You merely had to put the_n the Invertor in Surgery and flick the switch for full Inversion.
  • Or you could flick it for partial Inversion and turn something into a perfec_hree-dimensional mirror image of itself, just what a right-hand glove is of _eft. Rotation through the fourth dimension, the science boys call it; I'v_eard of it being used in surgery on the highly asymmetric Martians, and eve_o give a socially impeccable right hand to a man who'd lost one, by turnin_n amputated right arm into an amputated left.
  • Ordinarily, nothing but live things are ever Inverted in Surgery and yo_ouldn't think of doing it to an inanimate object, especially in a Place wher_he Doc's a drunk and the Surgery hasn't been used for hundreds of sleeps.
  • But when you've just fallen in love, you think of wonderful crazy things to d_or people. Drunk with love, Lili had taken Bruce's extra left-hand glove int_urgery, partially Inverted it, and got a right-hand glove to give him.
  • What Doc had been trying to say with his "Inversh … bosh … " was "Invert th_ox," meaning we should put the bronze chest through full Inversion to get a_he bomb inside to disarm it. Doc too had got the idea from Lili's trick wit_he glove. What an inside-out tactical atomic bomb would look like, I coul_ot imagine and did not particularly care to see. I might have to, though, _ealized.
  • But the fast-motion film was still running in my head. Later on, Lili ha_ecided like I had that her lover was going to lose out in his plea for mutin_nless she could give him a really captive audience—and maybe, even then, sh_ad been figuring on creating the nest for Bruce's chicks and … all thos_ther things we'd believed in for a while. So she'd taken the Major Maintaine_nd remembered the glove, and not many seconds later, she had set down on _helf of the Art Gallery an object that no one would think o_uestioning—except someone who knew the Gallery by heart.
  • I LOOKED at the abstract sculpture a foot from my nose, at the clustered gra_pheres the size of golf balls. I had known that the inside of the Maintaine_as made up of vastly tough, vastly hard giant molecules, but I hadn'_ealized they were quite  _that_  big.
  • I said to myself, "Greta, this is going to give you a major psychosis, bu_ou're the one who has to do it, because no one is going to listen to you_eductions when they're all practically living on negative time already."
  • I got up as quietly as if I were getting out of a bed I shouldn't have bee_n—there are some things Entertainers are good at—and Kaby was just saying
  • "you go mad in about fifty heartbeats." Everybody on their feet was looking a_ili. Sid seemed to have moved, but I had no time for him except to hope h_adn't done anything that might attract attention to me.
  • I stepped out of my shoes and walked rapidly to Surgery—there's one good thin_bout this hardest floor anywhere, it doesn't creak. I walked through th_urgery screen that is like a wall of opaque, odorless cigarette smoke and _oncentrated on remembering my snafued nurse's training, and before I had tim_o panic, I had the sculpture positioned on the gleaming table of th_nvertor.
  • I froze for a moment when I reached for the Inversion switch, thinking of th_ther time and trying to remember what it had been that bothered me so muc_bout an inside-out brain being bigger and not having eyes, but then I eithe_humbed my nose at my nightmare or kissed my sanity good-by, I don't kno_hich, and twisted the switch all the way over, and there was the Majo_aintainer winking blue about three times a second as nice as you could wan_t.
  • It must have been working as sweet and steady as ever, all the time it wa_nverted, except that, being inside out, it had hocused the direction finders.