Fall of the White Ship Avatar
mansions and skid row. If we ever end up in normal surroundings I'm not sure I'll know how to act anymore.
    Ends Well featured old-fashioned stairs and hallways, no whisk-platform transport system or chuteshafts. Alacrity, looking around, couldn't tell if it had changed; he'd been there only briefly, as a child. An awful lot had happened to him since; several lifetimes' worth.
    The companions took in the splendor with only a fraction of their attention, the rest devoted to Tomasina's smooth, finely muscled behind, which orbited through divine figure eights as she led the way. Floyt was reassured in that Alacrity had reemerged from his distraction enough to oggle. Alacrity did not, however, as might otherwise have been the case, offer to lick Tomasina's skin until his tongue wore down.
    They came at length to the central kitchen, high up in the summit of Ends Well, a room only slightly smaller than a concert hall, with sky and sunlight all around. It was equipped with every variety of food processor and cooking tackle Alacrity could think of, along with a lot he didn't recognize, in glittering maxtech surfaces and brushed metal. There were banks of readout projectors and indicators in glowing colors.
    But in one corner sat a modest little work area consisting of heating unit, sink, preservation locker, and countertop—archaic, simple, and uncomplicated. There Lord Marcus Perlez puttered, chopping and dicing, humming to himself, keeping one eye on a wok, his apron covering a very expensive housesuit.
    The place smelled nearly as mouth-watering as Tomasina.
    A woman was standing by, attentive to him. She was Tomasina's duplicate, right down to the attire, the fragrance, and the darkly lustrous Lillith's eye at her bosom.
    Lord Marcus turned as he heard their footsteps, gave them a cheerful, harried wave and a grin, bushy eyebrows fluttering, then went back to his cooking. Tomasina's double gave them a quick smile.
    "Sorry, sorry; can't let this stuff get away from you, y'know, or it's ruined, just ruined," Marcus told them over his shoulder, waving a wooden spatula. "Take yourselves some seats! Here; keep me company. Too file:///C|/Documents%20and%20Settings/harry%20kruis...y%20-%20Fall%20of%20the%20White%20Ship%20Avatar.htm (38 of 242)23-2-2006 17:03:12
    early for a drink?"
    "It's late afternoon for us," Floyt replied as he and Alacrity sat on high, heavy old stools upholstered with bluish leather.
    "We'll have what you're having," Alacrity added. "And thanks. You're looking well, sir."
    Perlez took a moment from his cooking to wipe his hand on his apron and give Alacrity a quick, firm wrist-clasp. But there was something distracted about it, and Floyt could see that the old man and Alacrity were both thinking of less pleasant times.
    "Good to see you, m'lad," Perlez said, winking, one bushy eyebrow lowering. He was gruffly compassionate, giving Alacrity's wrist a last squeeze. "Glad you made it."
    He turned to Floyt. "You too, you too!" He had time for a rushed Terran-style handshake, then he was back to his chefery. "Callisto, if you'd be so kind as to do the honors, my pet?"
    Callisto turned out to be the woman next to him and, what with the advanced systemry in the kitchen, she had five drinks ready with amazing speed, depth charges in frosted beer mugs, the liquor some thick stuff as dark as the Lillith's eyes. Floyt studied, with some trepidation, the shot glass standing on the bottom of his mug, but clinked glasses with the rest.
    As Tomasina busied herself setting out sopmat coasters, Lord Marcus said, "My dears, these good gents and I have a few things we should discuss in private, so I'm afraid you must busy yourselves elsewhere.
    That's presuming you don't prefer to retire, too, sir?"
    That last was to Floyt. Alacrity said, "No, I want him to hear this."
    Tomasina smiled beautifully. "We have work to do anyway, thank you, sir. I'll be taking lunch and working on the staff

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