The value of self government at an individual level cannot be overestimated.
- BuSab Manual
Nothing could stop him now, Cheo told himself.
Mliss could die in a few, minutes, deprived of air in the Beautybarber tank where he'd confined her. The others on their refuge world would have to follow him, then. He would control the S'eye and the threads of power.
Cheo stood in his quarters with the S'eye controls near at hand. It was night outside, but all things remained relative, he reminded himself. Dawn would be breaking soon where the Caleban's Beachball rested above the surf on Cordiality.
The Caleban's ultimate dawn . . . the dawn of ultimate discontinuity. That dawn would slip into eternal night on all the planets which shared a universe with the doomed Caleban.
In just a few minutes, this planet-of-the-past where he stood would reach its point of proper connectives with Cordiality. And the Palenki waiting across the room there would do what it had been commanded to do.
Cheo rubbed the scars on his forehead.
There'd be no more PanSpechi then to point accusing fingers at him, to call him with ghostly voices. Never again would there be a threat to the ego which he had secured to himself.
No one could stop him.
Mliss could never come back from death to stop him. She must be gasping in the sealed tank by now, straining for the oxygen which did not exist there.
And that stupid McKie! The Saboteur Extraordinary had proved to be elusive and annoying, but no way remained for him to stop the apocalypse.
Just a few more minutes now.
Cheo looked at the reference dials on the S'eye controls. They moved so slowly it was difficult to detect any change while you kept your eyes on them. But they moved.
He crossed to the open doors onto the balcony, drew a questioning stare from the Palenki, and stepped outside. There was no moon, but many stars shone in patterns alien to a PanSpechi. Mliss had ordered a strange world here with its bits of ancient history from her Terran past, its odds and ends of esoterica culled from the ages.
Those stars, now. The Caleban had assured them no other planets existed here . . . yet there were stars. If those were stars. Perhaps they were only bits of glowing gas arranged in the patterns Mliss had requested.
It would be a lonely place here after the other universe was gone, Cheo realized. And there would be no escaping those starry patterns, reminders of Mliss.
But it would be safe here. No pursuit, because there would be no pursuers.
He glanced back into the lighted room.
How patiently the Palenki waited, eyes lidded, motionless. The whip dangled limply from its single hand. Crazy anachronism of a weapon! But it worked. Without that wild conjunction of Mliss and her kinky desires, they would never have discovered the thing about the weapon, never have found this world and the way to isolate it forever.
Cheo savored the thought of forever. That was a very tong time. Too long, perhaps. The thought disturbed him. Loneliness . . . forever.
He cut off these thoughts, looked once more at the S'eye dials. The pointers had moved a hair closer to the curtained moment. They would coincide presently.
Not looking at the pointers, not looking anywhere, really, Cheo waited. Night on the balcony was full of the odors Mliss had gathered-exotic blooms, scents and mucks of rare life forms, exhalations of a myriad species she had brought to share her Ark.
Ark. That was an odd name she'd given this place. Perhaps he'd change that . . . later. Creche? No! That carried painful reminders.
Why were there no other planets? he wondered. Surely the Caleban could have provided other planets. But Mliss had not ordered them created.
Only the thinnest of lines separated the pointers on the S'eye dials.
Cheo went back into the room, called the Palenki.
The squat turtle shape stirred itself to action, came to Cheo's side. The thing looked eager. Palenkis enjoyed violence.
Cheo felt suddenly empty, but there was no turning back. He put his hands to the controls - humanoid hands. They would remind him of Mliss, too. He turned a knob. It felt oddly alien beneath his fingers, but he stifled all uneasiness, all regrets, concentrated on the pointers.
They flowed into each other, and he opened the jumpdoor.
"Now!" he commanded.