Cerberus: A Wolf in the Fold | Chapter 8 of 22

Author: Jack L. Chalker | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 1616 Views | Add a Review

Please hit next button if you encounter an empty page

CHAPTER SIX

Preparations

Sanda Tyne, Dylan Kohl, Turgan Sugal, and, yes, even fat Otah. Especially him.

The elements were all there.

The first thing I did was drop down to a store and buy an armload of electric slates. I needed a lot of plotting and planning with hard copy, but I wanted no trace whatsoever to remain after.

No innocent slips of paper, no idle tracing to betray me. When the deed was accomplished, I'd have to stay well protected. The scam would be absolute and it would work, but those higher up, far beyond

Khamgirt, would smell a rat somewhere, if only because they were variations of people like me and would have a nose for it. They'd know what had occurred was a frame, but even as they allowed Khamgirt to be led away to oblivion of some kind they'd be searching for the culprit Page 41

Khamgirt wouldn't be sacked because they believed him guilty, but for being so sloppy as to allow such a dirty trick to be played on him.

Dylan had exploited much the same weakness in the system when she had broken free of the motherhood by using a drug most people had never heard about or believed existed. I had no access to such substances, and even if I might get some that wasn't what I wanted. Any controlled substances, particularly those from offworld, could be traced by a determined group of investigators. The key to this plan as it developed was that, even if they figured it out, they would reject the explanation because of its very absurdity. I liked that touch.

Even as Sugal got me what I wanted to know—information on night shifts in certain parts of Tooker, various routine business transfer codes, and facts about certain basic computers supplied by Tooker to borough agencies—I started out to complete my subtle recruitment. This was not something that could be done alone, although I would have preferred to do it that way.

But what had to be accomplished in very little time was too spread out and complex for any one person to manage. Furthermore, I wanted no chance of interruptions by third parties who might have to be dealt with, so I had to control everybody in the area for a stated period of time. That would be tough. However, I had some things to offer, and some interested parties to offer them to.

By now I had Dylan's measure pretty well and was certain of her ability to keep things quiet, including herself, and of her guts to pull off her assignment.

Sanda was the problem. Now over seven months pregnant, she had little freedom of movement, and her life in that cloister was beyond my checking. She'd go along with my plan, of course, but I had to trust Dylan's judgment that she'd keep her mouth shut about it.

I decided on Dylan first, just because I needed her final evaluation on my pregnant potential weak link.

I had to wait for the weekend to get down there, though, because I needed the time with the information Sugal supplied to work things out. Also after a day chasing borks or at least patrolling for them and then cleaning and checking the boat, Dylan was not very lively company in the evenings. In one way we were incompatible: anybody who liked getting up at dawn to go to work was a bit strange and incomprehensible in my book.

I arranged to meet her at a small club in town to make sure that Sanda wouldn't be around. We'd met like this a couple of times before, just to be social—and we had gotten very social the last time—but this meeting would be slightly different. She was a very attractive woman, though, and even more so when she dressed for a night on the town rather than a day on the sea.

We ordered dinner and mostly exchanged small talk, then ate and went out to a small cabaret and did a little drinking and dancing. At the end of the evening, we went over to her apartment as-we had before, but this time I had something additional in mind.

And at the right moment as I judged it, while we lay there, relaxed, I finally file:///F|/rah/Jack%20L.%20Chalker/Chalker,%20...0-%20Cerberus%20A%20Wolf%20in%

20the%20Fold.txt (36 of 122) [7/1/03 1:26:17 AM]

file:///F|/rah/Jack%20L.%20Chalker/Chalker,%20Jack%20-%20FLOD%202%20-%20Cerb erus%20A%20Wolf%20in%20the%20Fold.txt got to the point. In fact, she provided the opening. "You seemed distracted, far away tonight," she noted. "Something wrong with you? Or is it me?"

"No, nothing's wrong," I assured her, "but, yes, you're right. Dylan, it's time I came out in the open, I think, and I hope I know you well enough to trust you."

She sat up and looked at me, half puzzled, half expectant

"Dylan, we've gotten to know each other quite well. I think we somehow complement each other. And we've talked freely about ourselves, I think. Still, what do you know about me?"

"You're Qwin Zhang, you're a computer programmer for Tooker, and you came from Page 42

Outside," she replied. "And you've been an awful lot of places across the galaxy. You were loadmaster on a spaceship. And, according to some friends I know, your name is female on the civilized worlds. So? You trying to say you were once a woman? So what?"

"I came here as a woman, yes," I told her, taking the big gamble, "but I wasn't born in that body.

It was Qwin Zhang's body—but I'm not Qwin Zhang. Not the original one, anyway."

"I thought only Cerberans could do that."

"It's a different process. A mechanical one, basically. But I wasn't a criminal and I wasn't a loadmaster."

She was staring at me, fascinated but not apprehensive. "So? Who are you, then, and what did you do?"

"I killed people the Confederacy wanted killed," I told her. "I tracked them down, found them out, and killed them."

There was a sharp intake of breath, but no other reaction. Finally she asked, "And they sent you here to kill someone?"

I nodded. "Yes. But it's someone who needs it, and since I'm stuck here the same as everybody else, that's important. They might try and kill me if I didn't, but that's beside the point. I'm confident enough they wouldn't succeed, and what they want is what I want, too."

"Who?" she asked.

"Wagant Laroo," I told her.

She whistled. "They don't think small, do they? And neither do you. Well, at least that explains why you were so interested in Laroo's Island."

I nodded. "I'm going to do it, Dylan. Nothing is more certain than that—although there are still a lot of steps in the way, and so a lot of time will pass before I can do it. Still it will happen. Nobody is invulnerable, not even me."

"Any particular reason why?"

"Problems. It seems Laroo and the other Lords of the Diamond made a deal with some aliens to help conquer the Confederacy. I don't have real affection one way or the other for the Confederacy, but I have a lot for the human race."

"These—aliens. What are they like?"

"We don't know," I told her. "All we do know is they're so nonhuman that there's no way they can do their own dirty work. That's why the Four Lords were hired.

I'm sure they figure they'll get revenge and be on the winning side, but we don't know about these aliens. After they crack the Confederacy they might just decide they don't need ms any more, either. They're trying to find out all they can about these creatures, whoever and whatever they are, but the only common link is the Warden Diamond. And one way of at least throwing a curve is to eliminate the Four Lords as currently constituted. A power struggle would disrupt things, buy time—and the new Lords might not be so thrilled about cooperating with and trusting these allies. I drew Laroo, But after seeing how he runs things here, I'd like a shot at him anyway. There are better, freer ways to run things than this, ones that don't cost people so much of their self-respect.

You only have to think of the motherhood to know what I mean."

"I'm not too sure I follow that last bit, but the rest I understand," she said.

"I don't think anybody, not even the Four Lords, can commit people like me to help these aliens. All I keep thinking about is a race of sly, clever borks."

"Perhaps," I told her. "Or they might be a lot more appealing—it makes no difference. We don't know anything except that they're very nonhuman. Until I file:///F|/rah/Jack%20L.%20Chalker/Chalker,%20...0-%20Cerberus%20A%20Wolf%20in%

20the%20Fold.txt (37 of 122) [7/1/03 1:26:18 AM]

Page 43

erus%20A%20Wolf%20in%20the%20Fold.txt get a lot more assurances, that's all I need to know. We here in the Warden

Diamond are sitting ducks when they don't need us any more. A civilization capable of crossing space and subtle enough to hire the Four Lords isn't one I could trust with my future."

She was silent for a moment, finally lighting one of those big cigars that took a fair share of her pay. Finally, in a haze of smoke, she asked softly, "Qwin?

Why are you telling me this?"

"The first step is influence. I need influential friends in high places who can give me information.

Dylan, who owns your boat?"

"Hroyasail, of course. Why?"

"Who's president of Hroyasail?"

"Nobody. I told you that."

I nodded. "Suppose I was president of Hroyasail? Set the salaries, got better parts, newer equipment—the best."

"What the hell are you talking about?"

"Suppose we ran Hroyasail, you and I. Not just a captain whose job can be cut by some bureaucrat, but really running the place. Boss. Sound interesting?"

"Go on."

"I need you to make that possible. You and one other. I'm talking about something criminal, but nobody gets killed or, I hope, even hurt. What I have in mind will take some guts, but I know you have that. Are you willing?"

"I don't know what the hell you're talking about."

"I'm going to get the president of Tooker fired. I'm going to totally discredit him. As a result, certain high-placed officials will move up and be grateful to me. They'll give me Hroyasail and a big bank account and information when I need it. See?"

"You can do that?"

I smiled. "Easily. If they haven't changed the fire alarm system in the borough in the past three years."

"What?"

I spent the night with Dylan, and over breakfast we discussed the other problem.

"Unless you can think of somebody quickly who I would trust, and you could trust, for an operation like this, we'll need Sanda as well," I told her. "She's got brains and spunk, and she can do the job, I think. But can we rely on her not to talk? I can't get into Akeba House to see what she's like away from the rest of us. You were there once. What do you think?"

"She'd be a good choice," she agreed. "She's got the biggest crush on you I've ever seen. But to do what you're proposing—I don't think the temptation is possible for her to resist. She'll blow it there."

"If I promise her a way out of the Motherhood free and clear at a later date?

Right now I need her where she is. I need that expense account she has, and that anonymity as well. But when we're done, I can get her out."

"I don't know. The promise of something later versus something now isn't easy to handle when you're faced with it."

"I think I can handle that part," I assured her. "The question is, if I trick her back into her own body, will she blow the thing just for spite?"

"Nobody can say," she said honestly. "But my gut instinct is that she wouldn't.

She's got it bad for you. For that matter, so do I, damn it. Qwin, is that all I am to you? Somebody to accomplish your mission, then be paid off?"

I took her hand and squeezed it. "No," I responded gently. "No, you're a lot more than that.

And so is Sanda."

Page 44

She smiled. "I wish I knew for sure. I really do. Somebody like you is a little out of my league, you know, and way out of Sanda's. You were born, bred, and trained for your job. People trust you and don't know why. People confide in you and don't know why. Women fall for you and don't know why. I wonder whether even you know what about you is real."

"In the past, in the old days, you'd be right," I responded honestly. "But not here now, and for the future on Cerberus. This is my home now. My permanent home, and my life. It's different now, Dylan, and so am I. Look, I've just put my life in your hands by what I've told you. You can see that, surely?"

file:///F|/rah/Jack%20L.%20Chalker/Chalker,%20...0-%20Cerberus%20A%20Wolf%20in%

20the%20Fold.txt (38 of 122) [7/1/03 1:26:18 AM]

file:///F|/rah/Jack%20L.%20Chalker/Chalker,%20Jack%20-%20FLOD%202%20-%20Cerb erus%20A%20Wolf%20in%20the%20Fold.txt

"Well, there is that," she admitted, and finished her breakfast.

On Dylan's advice, I decided to talk to Sanda alone first, then let her go talk to Dylan afterward.

I decided not to be as honest with her as I had been with Dylan, mostly because I was less sure of her abilities to keep things quiet

"Dylan and I are going to try to do something very risky," I told her.

"Basically, I've got a setup that could put me in control of Hroyasail if the law can be successfully bent, shall we say."

She was interested and fascinated. I could see the romance of it all catching on inside her. This was the land of thing "real world" people did, not the mothers of Akeba House.

"Now," I continued carefully, "before I go any further, I have to warn you of something. This is no game. If I tell you more, you'll hold both my life and Dylan's in your hands because they'll kill us if there's any leak, if there's even the slightest suspicion. That means no talking to anyone except for the two of us—and no excitement, no betrayal of even the fact that you have secrets to keep, or you'll do us in. We need help, but not if you don't think you can handle it. Understand?"

She nodded. "You're afraid I can't keep it to myself?"

"There's nothing personal, but both you and Dylan have told me about life inside that harem, and it's sounds like harems throughout past history. You sit around, you talk, you gossip, you know each other so well you note when something's not right with somebody else and the word gets spread all over. Be very honest—do you think you could keep something like this to yourself?"

"I think I can," she responded.

"Not think. Know! Be absolutely sure of yourself or it stops here and we find somebody else."

"I'm sure. I wouldn't:—couldn't—do anything that might hurt you or Dylan."

"All right, then. We really do need you on this for what you can tell me even now. You had some nurse's training?"

She nodded. "We all do. Some more than others, but I got interested. Dylan knows more than me, though. She was at it longer."

I nodded. "All I need is some basic information right now. The first question is, have you ever been hypnotized?"

She nodded. "Sure. We do it all the time for deliveries, since we can't use much in the way of anesthetics. Not too many folks on Cerberus will come anywhere near hypnotism, though."

That was certainly true. You put total control of what body you wore and what body you would wear into someone else's hands, and that was something you didn't do lightly. Not here.

"All right," I told her, "now—Dylan told me that on special occasions some of the mothers would switch so those in the late stages of pregnancy could go out.

Just a temporary courtesy."

Page 45

"That's right. It's not usual, but we've all done it."

"Good. Can you think of anybody you might be able to switch with for a full day and night?"

She thought a moment "Yeah. I guess so. Marga, maybe, although I'd owe her one.

When would this be?"

"Two weeks from now. Friday evening through Saturday evening or maybe Sunday morning."

"I'll work it out."

"Good. Talk it over with Dylan, too, all you want. I'm going to be doing dry runs and setups au week. Next weekend I'll work out a little test or two to see if there are any kinks in company security. Now, two more things." I fished a couple of papers from my pocket and handed them to her. She looked at them quizzically.

"What are these?"

"Remember Otah?"

"Yeah?"

"Well, he does a lot of interesting bootlegs other than just entertainment," I told her. "If I came in with those, though, he might get suspicious, and the money would still be missing from my account. I want you—or somebody else who file:///F|/rah/Jack%20L.%20Chalker/Chalker,%20...0-%20Cerberus%20A%20Wolf%20in%

20the%20Fold.txt (39 of 122) [7/1/03 1:26:18 AM]

file:///F|/rah/Jack%20L.%20Chalker/Chalker,%20Jack%20-%20FLOD%202%20-%20Cerb erus%20A%20Wolf%20in%20the%20Fold.txt won't ask questions and can act for you— to go into Otah's place with those and ask for those specific parts. Tell him they are required spares for a surprise fire inspection at Akeba House. Tell him that they have to be exactly like those on the sheet because of special equipment in the House. If he presses further, act ignorant of any more, but insist he make those specific parts, without variations and without substitutions."

She looked at the diagrams, then turned them first one way, then upside down.

"It won't be hard to pretend ignorance. What are they?"

"Computer memory chips," I told her. "I need 'em as soon as possible, but definitely within a week. Understand?"

She nodded. "He makes these things?"

"He can have them made."

"How much should I pay for them?"

"You have almost unlimited credit, you said. It's why I've let you buy me so many dinners. The price'll be high, since the transaction is under the counter.

Probably two or three hundred units each."

She whistled. "Wow."

"Too steep for you?"

"No, but it's more than I'm ever used to paying."

"Will it show up in your personal account?"

"Oh, no. We don't have them. It's another way they keep us barefoot and pregnant. It's the House account."

I nodded to myself, then pulled her close and kissed her. "You know," I said, "I never realized before how sexy a pregnant woman can be to a man."

By God, I told myself, this crazy, insane, totally absurd plot was going to work!

"Tell me about nuraform," I asked them on the boat Friday night.

"It's an anesthetic, one of the few that works here," Dylan replied. "A couple of whiffs and you'll go out like a light for twenty minutes or so—but you won't be able to change bodies with it.

That's why it's approved at all. Major operations and stuff like that, or on-the-job accidents where somebody's in great pain. But it's a controlled substance. Doctors and medical personnel only."

Page 46

"That's no trouble," I replied. "The company dispensary keeps some around. I can steal it pretty easy."

"Why bother?" she asked me, and pulled a small magnakey from her pocket "We always carry a small supply on the boats."

I not only could have kissed her, I did.

"But what good's nuraform?" Sanda asked. "I mean, you can't switch with it, and if somebody's knocked out with it they'll know."

"Not if they're asleep," I told her. "Look, let's go on to other phases of this operation. What about the chips?"

"He took the job," Sanda told me, "although it required some real haggling, and I had to do a lot of squirming. I also had to borrow Marga's body to get in there, so I'm really going to have to find something to get her."

"You figure that out and I'll get it," I assured her. "Now—when will you have them?'

"Tuesday. He was pretty firm about that, no matter what. I can send a messenger then, because it's prepaid."

"Okay. I'll need 'em Tuesday evening, and I'll drop down to pick them up. We're looking good—fewer hitches than I'd ever dreamed. You can do wonders when you're doing a duty deed for the boss. The amount of information I've gotten would have taken a year of hard and risky work."

"I still say you're crazy and this plan's insane," Dylan said, shaking her head.

"It's so crazy and so complicated it can't possibly work."'

"You think they make this kind of operation easy? Look, every corporation president, every syndicate boss, got where he was by doing the insane and crooked thing at just the right time.

Even with that, their investigators will know they've been had. Within two weeks they'll have figured out how it was done—although, hopefully, not who did it, since I'm not even the one getting

file:///F|/rah/Jack%20L.%20Chalker/Chalker,%20...0-%20Cerberus%20A%20Wolf%20in%

20the%20Fold.txt (40 of 122) [7/1/03 1:26:18 AM]

file:///F|/rah/Jack%20L.%20Chalker/Chalker,%20Jack%20-%20FLOD%202%20-%20Cerb erus%20A%20Wolf%20in%20the%20Fold.txt rewarded at the end but pastured instead. No, they'll come up with the right solution, all right, but the scheme is so crazy they won't believe it themselves, and that'll stop that. As for its being complicated—yes, I don't like that. The more complicated something is, the more likely it is to go wrong.

But at least there are provisions almost to the end to back out at any point, so if we do our jobs properly there's minimal risk of getting caught. Don't worry about that part—just worry about your own."

"I am," Dylan responded glumly.

"Look, let's go through the key rehearsal now. Just think about this, both of you. If it works, you, Dylan, will have your own boat under nobody's supervision and no real worries—independent and secure. And you, Sanda, I promise—if all goes as planned, we're going to liberate you from the motherhood and do it so slickly that nobody will bat an eyelash. If you can be patient and not jump the gun, the three of us might wind up running this damned world in a couple of years."

Neither of them believed that, but they believed in me and that was enough. It usually was. Only this time, for a change, I wasn't just pulling a con to set up a mission. I really meant business.

"Now, let's see what sort of hypnotic subjects you are," I said.

Sanda went under quickly and easily. Dylan resisted somewhat, and I could understand why and sympathize with her. After a long struggle she was who and what she wanted to be. Hypnosis was a threat to that. It took a good deal of smooth and soothing talk finally to get her to the Page 47

point where she was willing.

Sanda had romance to gain and absolutely nothing to lose in this whole business—if we weren't caught on the spot. Dylan, on the other hand, had relatively little to gain but was risking all that she held dear in this business. She was'n't really doing this for herself, but for me, and I knew it.

I knew the routine well from past operations and had had a lot of practice. I'd also used Tooker's computers to do a lot of medical research on exactly how to handle this particular ticklish business, but actually doing so would not be easy.

Being there alone in a boat lounge with two attractive women in deep hypnosis was something of a kinky turn-on, but that feeling passed in a minute. This was business. In the Confederacy there were drugs and devices that could do this much better. But I was prevented from using the first by the Warden organism and didn't have access to the second. That's why we learned hypnosis from the start.

You never had the right stuff around when you really needed it.

They both seemed to be asleep in their chairs, and I went over to Dylan first.

"Dylan, you will listen to my voice and nothing else, listen and trust me and do exactly as I say.

Do you understand?"

"Yes." Sleepily, faraway.

"Answer my questions truthfully, Dylan."

"I will."

"Would you ever betray me or my mission?"

"I don't think so."

"Dylan, why are you willing to do this?"

"Because you want it."

"But why is that so important? Why should you take risks for me?"

"Because I—"

"Yes?"

"I think I love you."

Love. A fascinating word and feeling. One I had used many times but still didn't quite understand myself. Certainly love was usually an abstract concept on Cerberus.

"You do love me, don't you?"

"Yes."

"Very much. Very deeply. More than you've ever loved anyone, more than you love yourself."

"Yes."

"You would trust me with your body, even your life."

"Yes."

file:///F|/rah/Jack%20L.%20Chalker/Chalker,%20...0-%20Cerberus%20A%20Wolf%20in%

20the%20Fold.txt (41 of 122) [7/1/03 1:26:18 AM]

file:///F|/rah/Jack%20L.%20Chalker/Chalker,%20Jack%20-%20FLOD%202%20-%20Cerb erus%20A%20Wolf%20in%20the%20Fold.txt

"And I could trust you with my body, my life."

"You could."

I moved over to Sanda and repeated some of the process.

"Would you betray us or our mission?"

"No," she assured me. "Never."

"Have you told anyone in the House about this?"

"No."

"Has anyone there suspected you were up to something? Asked questions?"

"One or two."

Page 48

"And what did you tell them?"

"I said I was in love with you and that you were in love with me."

"Did they believe you and press no more?"

"They were envious," she told me. "They ask me about you."

"And what do you tell them?"

"I tell them you came from Outside and you work for Tooker."

"And what else?"

The next segment was more than a little embarrassing to me personally. The romantic fantasies this lonely and bored young woman had concocted were graphic and hard to believe, and the image of me as someone approaching godhood was beyond any technique I'd ever studied. Still, it was satisfactory. They would understand those fantasies for what they were and put down a lot of her nervous excitement to meeting me.

Her emotional patterns were at once simpler and more complex than Dylan's or the average person's. She loved, truly loved, Dylan, but she worshiped me.

Confederacy agents are born and bred to their jobs and are as perfect as the biological and social sciences can make them for doing whatever needs to be done.

As a youngster in the game I'd been amazed at how easily people could be turned, how malleable they were in emotions and will if only the right words were said at the right times, the right buttons pushed. It was something I'd never really thought about, something that came almost instinctively. Even now it still amazed me. Two women were in love with me and were willing to risk their necks and who knew what else for me.

Even when they knew,as Dylan knew, they still went along. And yet standing there looking at the two women, I felt something that I had never really felt before, the stirrings of care, of concern, of real affection and approciation for these two. Perhaps, I reflected, not quite understanding myself, I too could love. But business came first.

I almost held my breath before this next one, since without it the whole thing would fall and have to be postponed. And time was running out on Turgan Sugal, and therefore on me.

I had them both open their eyes and rise, facing me. I instructed them to turn and face each other.

"Feel inside yourselves," I instructed. "Feel your mind. Feel the Wardens in your mind, calling out, connecting you one to the other, talking to each other mind to mind. Think of nothing else, concentrate on nothing else, but feel, hear, as they reach out, your mind to the other. Can you feel it?"

"Yes," they both answered in unison. "Dylan, you wish to be in Sanda's body. You wish it more than anything else in the world. It is a beautiful body, not a mother's body, and it is the ideal body you have always dreamed of. You want to be in that body. Flow into it, Dylan. Become Sanda's body. Sanda, you will not resist. You want to exchange bodies with Dylan. You will flow into hers as she into yours. And when your bodies have changed, you will both go back and sit in your chairs, still in a deep hypnotic sleep."

Apparently when both were hypnotized and so instructed the exchange went more quickly and smoothly than in the "natural" way. Or so the computers had told me, although they also warned that, once complete, it would take another ten minutes or so to set in. Actually, although consciously the exchange was complete at that point, it took up to seventy-two hours for a true set, but that wasn't what

I was after. All I wanted was a mental exchange, no more.

file:///F|/rah/Jack%20L.%20Chalker/Chalker,%20...0-%20Cerberus%20A%20Wolf%20in%

20the%20Fold.txt (42 of 122) [7/1/03 1:26:18 AM]

file:///F|/rah/Jack%20L.%20Chalker/Chalker,%20Jack%20-%20FLOD%202%20-%20Cerb erus%20A%20Wolf%20in%20the%20Fold.txt

Page 49

In less than ten minutes both women moved—and sat in each other's chairs. Dylan was now Sanda, and Sanda was now Dylan.

I went over to the new Dylan. "Dylan? Can you hear me?"

"Yes."

"Now, listen carefully. Soon I will awaken you, but you will still remain in a deep hypnotic sleep, even though awakened. And when you awaken, you will do the following exactly..."

Although I was a master of autohypnosis and had even gotten to the point of sensing the Wardens inside my own body, this was a bit too tricky to trust just to myself. So when she awakened, I allowed her to put me under, and the process was repeated, with me going into Dylan's old body and Sanda into mine. We were than all awakened, still under, and were able to compare notes, reactions, and the like. It looked like complete conscious control even in the short time allowed, and that satisfied me. We switched back again and Dylan brought me out, then I brought the two of them out, along with some handy posthypnotic suggestions. The suggestions wouldn't last more than a day or two, but tended to be of the self-reinforcing type, in which each of them would put herself under and repeat quite a lot over and over. It was an advanced form of hypnosis with limited use, but it was more than handy for memorizing things to do and to calm nerves.

All that afternoon we went over the plan again and again, until I was satisfied that all three of us had what we were to do down pat. Sanda had received permission to spend the night on the boat as long as she was in safe and enclosed quarters—their organization was run by a few incurable romantics, too—and we had a fancy dinner sent down from town which we ate.on the aft deck.

"One thing puzzles me," Dylan remarked. "It seems to me you had all the elements to make this plan first. Which came first—the elements or the plan?"

I laughed. "The elements, of course. The plan was tailored for what I could do and what my friends, associates, and close partners—you two—could do. It was a matter of stating the problem when it came up—Sugal's subtle forced ouster—and then putting together all I had, all that I could have, and matching it up to the chinks I'd already found in this society's armor. So far it's all worked out—but if my research was wrong and something doesn't go right, well, I'll try a different plan. Plans are easy—this one took only a few minutes—but execution's the hard part, since you never really know what's possible until you try it. Like tonight."

Tonight would be yet another test, really, and it would depend on me more than anything. All those two had to do was go to sleep, shielded from each other. I'd have a more difficult task, and all my plans and theories depended on it. It was logical, my computers told me, but there wasn't much medical evidence to back it up—for obvious reasons, I knew.

Which is why I sat, in a deep but aware hypnotic trance, in the same room as Dylan but unshielded—yet a good five meters from her bed. Sat and reached out and felt the creatures in my mind. It was an eerie sensation, really. There was no sight, sound, or smell to betray the Warden organism, but when you were deeply under— and occasionally while you were in a really deep sleep— you could hear them, sense them, talking.

Not talking in any sense that we understand, but there was some sort of communication, some sort of linkage, as if one could sense the individual cells comparing information elsewhere. An energy network, intangible, invisible, yet very much there, creating a sense of linkage not only between minds but between literally everything solid around you.

Under hypnotic control I was able to tune out much of it, all but Dylan's sleeping form, which seemed almost to burn with the tiny tendrils of immeasurably small energy linking one Warden organism to another. I could feel myself being almost physically drawn to her, interconnecting with every part of her body, linking mind to mind, arms to arms, legs to legs, heart to heart. At this point, more deep than I'd ever been, I understood a bit more how those on Lilith must feel who could command, send messages through that network. One could also wonder, too, how such a creature as the Warden could have evolved, how it could possibly exist Page 50

at all, on worlds otherwise not so different from

file:///F|/rah/Jack%20L.%20Chalker/Chalker,%20...0-%20Cerberus%20A%20Wolf%20in%

20the%20Fold.txt (43 of 122) [7/1/03 1:26:18 AM]

file:///F|/rah/Jack%20L.%20Chalker/Chalker,%20Jack%20-%20FLOD%202%20-%20Cerb erus%20A%20Wolf%20in%20the%20Fold.txt many man had conquered, and far less alien than most. What are you? Who are you?

Why do you exist?

And there seemed to be a faint answer somewhere, from all around.

We existl We live! We arel That is enough!

Dylan had gone from lighter, dream-filled sleep to that period people went through several times a night. Rigid, deep, dreamless. Her Wardens burned bright, talking, singing along fields of invisible force—hers to mine and mine to hers. And for the first time conscious as it happened, we changed. It was a strange experience, but not a terrifying one. There was something eerily satisfying about it, my body building up a tension and then the core of my being flowing along those fields of force toward that sleeping body and the core of hers to mine, providing a wondrous feeling I could not then and can not now describe.

I arose in the body of Dylan Kohl, feeling somehow exhilarated, high, powerful.

I went over to the dressing table, took the small bottle there and crept over to my old body, sleeping uneasily in the lounge chair. Carefully I placed it under his nose and pressed the stud, releasing a tiny whiff of vapor, which was quickly inhaled.

The body sagged slightly and the breathing became deeper, a bit labored but no real problem.

I shook him. "Dylan? Wake up." I shook harder. "Wake up, Dylan!" I almost shouted in his ear, and there was no reaction.

Satisfied, I clicked on the stopwatch, then tried moving the body. Though Dylan was a strong woman, she was still weaker than I was used to being as a man; I tried all sorts of ways to rouse the sleeper but got nowhere.

Finally I sat down on the bed to wait it out, going over every few minutes and trying again to rouse the unconscious form. About the fourth or fifth time I tried, the figure groaned a little and turned slightly. I reached over and clicked off the watch.

Twenty-four minutes and a few odd seconds. Time enough.

Another minute or so, and I was able to shake Dylan awake. He shook his head and rubbed his eyes for a moment, seemingly unable to get his bearings, then sighed and looked at me. "So it does work."

I nodded, "Twenty-four minutes, with my additional body weight. I'll bet it's longer for your body. Any ill effects?"

"I feel dead tired but otherwise nothing much," Dylan replied, "Now it's your turn," I said.

"Hippogryph."

The posthypnotic command took effect, sending her under quickly. With only a minimal briefing—we'd been over this again and again earlier in the day—I went back over to the bed and stretched out. It was several minutes before I could relax enough to drift into sleep. The old excitement, the old fun of this sort of thing was rising fully in me once again.

We were able to get a reversal on me in under three hours, which was very good indeed, and then I tiptoed quietly into Sanda's partitioned and shielded side to do much the same thing. I was tired, yes, but the hypnotic state was somewhat restful in and of itself and this was far more important. I could call on mental reserves when necessary.

I didn't use the nuraform on Sanda, since I didn't need to—my body had already proven out—and I didn't want any risks in her condition to her body.

Sensorily, her body was also far different from Dylan's or my own. The fetus inside her was far enough along that even now it had its own unique Warden pattern, one that I could sense, Page 51

although its own Wardens were out of reach to me, must as the Wardens in the molecules of the ship itself or the dock or the bed. It was a curious feeling.

Arising in her body was also something of a shock, as I was very much aware of the pregnancy and the vast differences in my new body, a body in a condition far stranger than merely the gender change from male to female and back again. My awakening on the prison ship that first time had almost been disappointing in that it felt so little different. Sanda was a far more startling experience.

But I had proved my theory and the heart of the scam. Proved it absolutely. I didn't know why someone else hadn't thought of it, too—but then again, maybe file:///F|/rah/Jack%20L.%20Chalker/Chalker,%20...0-%20Cerberus%20A%20Wolf%20in%

20the%20Fold.txt (44 of 122) [7/1/03 1:26:18 AM]

file:///F|/rah/Jack%20L.%20Chalker/Chalker,%20Jack%20-%20FLOD%202%20-%20Cerb erus%20A%20Wolf%20in%20the%20Fold.txt someone had. If so, it would take a rare sneaky mind like my own, since it required a knowledge of hypnotism and the body as well, and had involved an awful lot of homework that I would have found nearly impossible had I not worked at Tooker and had its vast computer system to play with.

Sanda's body was a marvel to me; I don't know how anybody can cope with it. It was awkward, and I felt bloated, and there were other sensations a bit too odd to describe. I began to get some appreciation of why she wanted out of this routine, although I couldn't believe it was liie this most of the time. Still, I

had to hang on for a bit, bring Sanda, now in my body, around and awake, and check out the one nagging doubt I had about my chosen personnel.

It was the first time she'd been in a man's body and awake and under control, unlike the hypnotic experiment earlier on the deck. She took some delight in the body, and in exploring it. I suspected the additional contrast between the body

I was now in, in the condition it was— roughly eight months pregnant—and my own top physical form only added to her pleasure.

"Can't I stay like this a while?" he pleaded. "It feels so—free!"

I shook my head sadly. "No, not now. You have to learn how to exchange for next week, and it's already close to dawn."

"Oh, please! Just for one day? You don't know what it means!"

"I think I do," I sympathized, "but, no. Control, Sanda. We'll do this again tomorrow night if the House is willing to let you stay another night, as I

suspect they will. We don't have much time, and we have a lot of practice to do."

He pouted. It was amusing to see the characteristics of Sanda in my body, as it had tickled me to see some legit switchers in similar circumstances. We learn our sexual and personality moves early on, and even on a body-switch world these come through—on people with a clear sexual identity, such as the three of us.

"I think we ought to get to this," I told him. "It's getting late, and you might get your wish by just keeping me up a little longer." I was somewhat concerned.

The unfamiliar-feeling body would cause enough problems, but I was becoming more and more awake. Sanda, in this body, had had a lot more sleep than Dylan or I had had.

Sanda seemed to sense that, too, and seemed determined to keep the argument going until it would go his way by default. Realizing this, I snapped, "Will I have this problem again next week, when our lives depend on it?"

That brought him up short, and sounding a little apologetic, he replied, "Look.

I'm sorry. I won't cross you up."

"I know you won't," I said softly, then said, "Hippo-gryph."

Page 52

Thank heavens for posthypnotic suggestion, I thought with relief. That was my ace in the hole for the next weekend too, of course. I crossed my fingers on that one, lay down, and tried to get some sleep, which was a long time coming.

The longer it took the more afraid I became of being trapped in this body, and the harder it was to get to sleep because of that fear. I finally managed, though, cheating a bit with some autohypnosis.

The sun was bright and it was late in the morning when Sanda, again herself, somewhat ruefully awakened me.

One more day of rehearsal, going over everything again and again, testing things out again and again, and one more night of testing, this time with Dylan doing the double switching, and we were as ready as we'd ever be. If Otah was as good as his word, I had one extra setup to accomplish on my own, and then a little sadistic fun, and we'd be ready for Friday afternoon.

Comments

user comment image
Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

Share your Thoughts for Cerberus: A Wolf in the Fold

500+ SHARES Facebook Twitter Reddit Google LinkedIn Email
Share Button