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.
Charles Sheffield (1935 - 2002)
Charles Sheffield, born in the UK in 1935, graduated from St John's College Cambridge with a Double First in Mathematics and Physics. Moving to the USA in the mid 1960's, he began working in the field of particle physics which lead to a consultancy with NASA and landed him the position of chief scientist at the Earth Satellite Corporation. Best known for writing hard SF, his career as a successful science fiction writer began in response to his grief over the loss of his first wife to cancer in 1977; Sheffield has been awarded both the Hugo and Nebula for his work and won the 1992 John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel for Brother to Dragons.. He also served as President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America between 1984 and 1986.
For more information see www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/sheffield_charles