Paradigms Lost

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Authors: Ryk E Spoor
least some things around because you like them, not just for show.”
    “Indeed I do. Most things are for my enjoyment, or that of my people.” Verne rose also and began to lead me on a tour of the house.
    Verne Domingo’s “house” was one of the only ones I’d ever visited that deserved the appellation “mansion.” It rose a full three stories, sprawled across a huge area of land, and had at least one basement level (given my host’s nature, I was not at all sure that there weren’t parts of the house, above or below ground, that were being concealed). His staff numbered twelve; thirteen, if you counted Morgan. He seemed wryly amused at the coincidence of the number, and noted to me that it had been that way for at least three hundred years. “Therefore,” he said, “you must forgive me for putting little stock in triskaidekaphobia.”
    “So none of your staff is less than three hundred years old?” I asked, trying to get my brain around the concept.
    “Not precisely. What has happened is that, on the occasions I have lost a member of my household over the past few centuries, I have quickly found a replacement. This number seems to be suited to my requirements for efficiency, comfort, and security. My youngest, in fact, you have met—Hitoshi Mori is scarcely seventy-five years old, and has been in my service for forty-two years.”
    “Morgan, I know, can work during the day. So they aren’t vampires like yourself, right?”
    Verne nodded, pausing to point out the engravings that were spaced evenly around the walls of this room. “It is possible for someone such as myself to bind others to my essence—allowing them to partake of the power that makes me what I am—without giving them all the limitations of the life I follow. Naturally, they do not gain all the advantages, either.”
    “No blood-drinking?”
    Morgan shook his head, opening the next door for us. “No, sir. We do have a preference for meat, given a choice—our metabolism, to use the modern term, seems to use more protein and so on. We gain immortality, some additional strengths and resistances, but nothing like the powers accorded to Master Verne.”
    “This is my library, Jason,” Verne said as we entered another large room, with tall windows that admitted moonlight in stripes across the carpet before it was banished by Morgan’s finger on the switch for the overhead lights. “One of them, to be more precise. This contains those works that might be commonly consulted, or read for pleasure, and which are not so unusual or valuable as to require special treatment.”
    The other three walls were covered with bookshelves—long, very tall bookshelves. A runner for one of the moving bookladders I’d seen in some bookstores ran the entire circumference of the room, aside from the one window-covered wall. Other tall shelves stood at intervals across the room, with a large central space for tables and chairs. Two people were there now, one taking notes from a large volume in front of him, the other leaning back in her chair, reading a newspaper. “Ah, Camillus, Meta, good evening.”
    The two rose to their feet. Camillus was the one who’d led the three-man assault team that had kidnapped me; a man of average height, slightly graying brown hair, brown eyes, and the wide shoulders and bearing of a career soldier; despite a strongly hooked nose, I was sure that Syl would have rated the tanned, square-faced Camillus highly on looks. Meta was a young lady—or, I amended, a young-looking lady—whose height matched Camillus’, but whose long, inky-black hair very nearly matched her skin shade. Despite that, her eyes were a startling gray-blue, and her features were sharp and even, giving her a look of aristocratic elegance that made questions of beauty almost inconsequential.
    “No need to rise,” Verne said with a smile. “But since you are up, please say hello to Jason Wood.”
    “Mr. Wood.” Camillus’ grip was as strong as I would

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