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Proteus Unbound

Charles Sheffield

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Fiction, Science fiction

There were problems with the Form Change process. One or two malfunctions at first: people emerging from the tanks in an incorrect form or completely unchanged.

For three years it had been getting worse. Now there had been deaths, and on the Space Farms panic was setting in. People were refusing to go into the tanks. Yet out in the Cloudlands, they needed continuous small form corrections just to stay effective. As the faults increased, their society was on an exponential curve to disaster.

Behrooz Wolf, down in the Inner System, was sent for. But far gone in despair, he was in no state to help. He himself was going mad. Like a hallucination, the Dancing Man would come capering across his field of vision. Dressed in skin-tight scarlet, he danced up to him, mouthing gibberish, then skipping backwards, tantalisingly, out of sight.

While, hidden in the Kernel Ring, Black Ransone bided his time, waiting for the disintegration of the empires, waiting to inherit the universe.

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