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Anderson Poul — Trzy serca i trzy lwy. Anthony Piers — cykl Xanth. Up in a Heaval. Two to the Fifth.

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I don't even remember much of what was said. Things they had learned the hard way usually, things they considered important, I guess.

Generally non-academic things. Those were the ones who taught me something, and perhaps they did direct me in an indirect way. Not to do what they wanted but to see something they had really seen. A piece of their slant on life, take it for whatever it is worth. Anyhow, while you are one of the few who escaped the formal assignment, over the years I have come to consider you my only real adviser.

That was the best way to do it in my case. The only way, probably. You have shown me things that have helped me. Now I am thinking particularly of our recent conversation, back on campus, right before you retired. It was created by a now extinct race somewhat similar to our own. It was located among the ruins of their civilization ages after its passing, and no one recognized it for what it was.

This is not especially strange, because there was nothing to distinguish it as the Speicus referred to in some of the writings which survived and were subsequently translated. It was assumed that the references indicated some sort of investigating committee or some process or program employed in the gathering and evaluation of information in the area of the social sciences. But it was the star-stone they were talking about. To function properly, it requires a host built along our lines.

It exists then as a symbiote within that creature, obtaining data by means of that being's nervous system as it goes about its business. It operates on this material as something of a sociological computer.

In return for this, it keeps its host in good repair indefinitely. On request, it provides analyses of anything it has encountered directly or peripherally, along with reliability figures, unbiased because it is uniquely alien to all life forms, yet creature-oriented because of the nature of the input mechanism. It prefers a mobile host with a fact-filled head. How did you learn all this? It got inside me then and persuaded me to bring it to full function.

In the process, however, I rendered myself incapable of all but the most rudimentary communication with it. Later, it was removed and I was returned to normal. It is currently functioning, though, and telepathic analysts are capable of conversing with it. Now, both the galactic Council and the United Nations would like to see it employed once more. What has been proposed is that it continue as a special item in the kula chain setup, providing each world it visits with a full report on itself.

Moving on, over the years, across the generations, this base would be broadened. Eventually, it would be able to supply the Council with reports encompassing whole sectors of the civilized galaxy.

It is a living data processor, mildly telepathic-for it has been absorbing bits and pieces over the centuries it has been circulating, so that it knew to advise me on the Galactic Code and knew of the function of a certain machine. It represents a unique combination of objectivity and empathy, and because of this its reports should be of more than a little value. Speicus seems to have taken a liking to me, wants me to do the honors. If I decline, though, I will still get to study many of these things as an alien culture specialist right here on earth.

A while ago we were there, now we are here. Everything in between is a bit unreal-the time between the tops of our towers. Up here, looking down, looking back, I notice for the first time that my towertops are coming closer and closer together.

There is a noticeable increase in the tempo of time and the times. Everything down there, between, grows more and more frantic, absurd. You told me that when I finally thought of it I should remember the brandy. I remembered the brandy, drank to it. For me. They consider us a developing world, you know-primitive, barbaric. They are most likely right, too. Let's face it. We've been beaten to the top.

If I take the job, I will be more of a display item than Speicus. I believed everything that I said when I said it and some of it still. But you must remember the circumstances. I was speaking from the end of a career, not the beginning, and I spoke at a moment when one is preoccupied with such matters. There are other thoughts I have entertained since then. Many of them. Such as Professor Kuhn's notions on the structure of scientific revolutions-that a big new idea comes along and shatters traditional patterns of thought, that everything is then put together again from the ground up.

Petty pace, bit by bit. After a time, things begin looking tidy once more, except for a few odd scraps and pieces. Then someone throws another brick through the window. Not quite as much time for the cleaning up. Then we met the aliens and a whole truckload of bricks arrived.

Naturally the intellect is staggered. Whatever we are, though, we are different from anyone else out there. We have to be. No two people or peoples are alike. If for no other reason than this, I know we have something to contribute.

It remains to be found, but it must be found. We must survive the current brick-storm, for it is obvious now that others have done it. If we cannot, then we do not deserve to survive and take our place among them.

It was not wrong of me to wish to be the first and the best, only perhaps wrong to wish to be alone. The trouble with you people in anthropology, for all your talk of cultural relativism, is that the very act of evaluation automatically makes you feel superior to whatever you are evaluating, and you evaluate everything.

We are now about to be evaluees for a time, anthropologists included. I suspect that has hit you harder than you may be willing to admit, in your favorite area of thought. I would then say, bear up and learn something from it.

Humility, if nothing else. We are on the threshold of a renaissance if I read the signs right. But one day the brick-fall will probably let up and Time will shuffle its feet and the sweeping of the floors will commence again. There will be opportunity to feel alone in ourselves once more.

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Now that you've had the requisite threat, tell me the details. How did you two meet? I mean, you are a friend of Jacob's. Milo roomed with Jacob while I invested in his business, and Jacob's cousin works for my company. Fate meant for you to get together; it just took a while before you were both ready. Now that you found him, what do you think?

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I don't even remember much of what was said. Things they had learned the hard way usually, things they considered important, I guess. Generally non-academic things. Those were the ones who taught me something, and perhaps they did direct me in an indirect way. Not to do what they wanted but to see something they had really seen.

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The novels are also available in print in Germany, published by Klett-Cotta. Pursued by a fiendish enemy, Merle must battle through an intricate web of vengeance and murder that threatens more than the San Francisco Bay area. For Merle Corey of California is also Merlin, son of Corwin, vanished Prince of Amber; and the forces, seeking to destroy the royal house, have unleashed sorceries that can strike anywhere, especially at the very heart of Amber. Across the mysterious Black Road, demons swarm into Shadow. The hour of battle is at hand.

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