Titled "Website vague idea thing.doc", it appears to be my early stab at a bonus story for my website, bringing elements from "Nursery Politics" and "The Ruins of Time" at the same point in Of the City of the Saved... that I eventually used for another website bonus story, "Unification Theory". It's incomplete, obviously, but you may, as I did, find it briefly diverting.
‘Ma’am,’ says one of the more heavily-armoured of the security personnel, ‘sir. May I see your invitations, please?’
The left-hand member of the black-upholstered duo (the man, though the bodily divergence between the two is hardly striking) pulls a white card from the inner pocket of his frock-coat, as from a shoulder-holster. ‘Mr Smits,’ he says, then nodding to his right, ‘Ms Lefèvre. We’re with one of the research institutes,’ he asserts blandly.
Naked of mask, his smoke-glassed eyes reflect the parsecs-distant skyline.
The security man runs the invitation through a handheld scanner, then inclines a plated head. ‘Very good, sir. Sorry to have bothered you.’ He trundles away.
When he is out of earshot, the woman called Lefèvre by the man calling himself Smits mutters, ‘I told you we were too conspicuous. We should have dressed to blend in.’
‘That’s not our way,’ says Smits. ‘The Director never approved of undercover work. We’re here to watch the Houseworlder. It doesn’t matter if he knows we’re here.’
The colleagues stare for some time at the dark-skinned, white-djellabaed figure of Professor Handramit, sharing a quiet cigarette at the parapet with one of his hosts. His human shape unnerves the agents, even more than the collateral security man’s contaminated biodata.
‘At least we know who this one is,’ Lefèvre says at length. ‘Not like that herm they found in Tormance.’
Smits shifts uneasily. ‘That’s just a rumour.’
‘Whatever,’ his colleague says. ‘I believe Mr Sideras.’
It is a rumour which none of the Institute’s personnel likes to think about. Supposedly, the alien whom Mr Sideras found in Tormance District had been passing for some years as a normal working hermaphrodite: making wooden furniture to sell, socialising at the colour bars, on amicable terms with customers and neighbours. Had it not been for the exquisitely-honed paranoia of Sideras’s colleague Ms Gowan, the carpenter’s dried skin-secretions on a recently-built kneelchair and a portable biodata-analysis kit, the interloper might have gone undetected for many more years.
If correct, the story of the hermaphrodite would suggest quite inescapably that somebody is resurrecting humanoid aliens – people, to use the word in its loosest sense, who appear human, yet are the heirs to no human ancestry whatsoever – and sending them to act as spies among the honest panhuman populations of the City.
Unnervingly, this specimen remains at large. The attempt at arrest did not favour Sideras and Gowan, and the latter has since entered seclusion. The rumour runs that she is, somehow, paralysed: not harmed, of course (that being categorically impossible) but preserved, intact and perfect, in a condition of stasis, as if for her the passage of time has been indefinitely suspended.
Within the City this, too, should be a categorical impossibility, although the fact is less well known.