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Chapter 10

Intelligent creatures could not be bought and sold on Oric.  Nothing, in fact, could be bought and sold.  Gifts were exchanged a great deal - it was the primary occupation of most of the creatures on the planet.  It stood to reason, then, that he who had the most possessions, since possessions could only be given and not bought, must be most beloved by those with whom he comes in contact.

The poet Towbee was ridiculed and had trinkets tossed into his basket.  The Master, who held court in a study at the apex of his pyramid-shaped home on Oric, acquired and dispensed worlds with the abandon of a traveling medicine salesman and was the most respected creature on the planet.  He was the richest.

The Master lay at a 30-degree angle with his head lower than his feet, four arms hanging below him.  His head was directly below the pyramid's apex and the point of light that shone through the open tip.  Carlo rolled into the chamber, groveling.

"You may rise upon your wheels, Carlo." The Master's gracious grant of permission to rise was no less command than the unspoken one that moved Carlo to bow upon his entry.  Anyone who entered this room had to swim through an energy that cauterized it, penetrated all within it.  There was the conviction that here was greatness.  Certainty.  Decision.

"Your report, Carlo?"  Commands, of course, were quite illegal on Oric, but the Master could hardly help the fact that his requests were strong ones.

"I have cajoled the holder of the last major expanse on the planet Rigel-12 to make a gift of it to you."

"See that he is promised an appropriate gift once our dividend operation has been carried out."

"Yes, Master.  Is that all, Master?"

"No, Carlo.  Are you aware that a theorist in a nearby predeveloped world has reputedly formulated a solution to the trisection of an angle?"

"Trisection?  But that is impossible."

"Obviously it is not.  My sources are quite reliable."

"Yes, Master.  The simplification of that operation could free up untold time for designers, planners, surveyors."

"I am aware of the implications.  I have chosen a plan to send a highly visible messenger to this predeveloped world.  His visibility will serve to mitigate against suspicion of his actual purpose.  You will prepare for his departure.

"Yes, Master.  Is that all, Master?"

"You may leave."

The slave whizzed from the room on command.



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