The Edge of Tomorrow 2 - 1992
The Puppeteer - Rick Tazzle
(page 7/13)

Apologies to Terry Pratchett, who is without doubt a very nice guy and will surely take this in the spirit it was meant and will thus not consider suing. The copyright on this material (The Puppeteer) property of R Yagodich by authorship is herewith seceded in part to Mr Pratchett, thus requiring the permission of both for further publication.


Jerakeen sneezed!

It was happening again. It always had this effect on him.

Now to most people, the fact that Jerakeen had just sneezed might not sound so impressive; but know that he is an elephant - impressed yet? - and no ordinary elephant at that For Jerakeen is one of four very special elephants. He stands, quite bored I can assure you, being carried through the interminable depths of space on the back of a giant turtle, bearing a quarter of the weight of the world - a disk known as, of all things, the Disk - on his shoulder. So large is he that cities are to his tusks as specks of dust are to fat, ugly needles.

We are not here however to discuss this oversized and lonely1 elephant's history. Nor shall we begin to philosophise as to exactly why the Disk is being carried trough time-space by four elephant's standing on the meteor-pocked shell of an oversized turtle of no fixed abode. Suffice to say that the Creator was having an inspired, if a little illogical, day...

Remember, Jerakeen just did something quite devastating: he sneezed.

The effect of this was about the same as if a volley of 100-megaton nuclear warheads were to shower the Disk, only that there was not the added hazard of fallout or the causing of an ice age - that was the domain of the Ice Giants. Continents buckled and seas boiled. The sun wobbled dangerously in it's orbit; not that anyone would notice for a few hours, due primarily to the fact that sunlight on the Disk travelled at a speed only marginally faster than that of sound2.

Shockwaves bounced around the Disk, shaking it. The persistent scratching began to irritate Great T'Phon, the elephant standing diametrically opposite Jerakeen, and he shuffled his feet.

The Disk lurched!

Two minor Gods who had been caught up in an argument with the Ice Giants over the late payment of the previous century's electricity bill and not noticed the shaking, let alone bothered to find handholds, were flung the several thousand miles from their office window, over seas and continents, to land...

...nowhere. They floated slowly over the Rim and drifted out into space, passing within a few hundred miles of Great A'Tuin's left eye as they continued to confer over exactly what to say next to the Ice Giants. They were not the only ones evicted without due cause. Many people came to their senses to discover that their homes had vanished, as had the familiar landscapes...

Terry closed his hand around the sheet of paper, crumpling it into a ball. Then, with a deft flick of his wrist, he lurched it into motion. Slowly, it sailed through the air, sparks of octarine3 light popping from it to leave a trail of dwindling magic. The effect could most easily be compared to a spluttering afterburner.

It hiccupped - turned a calm somersault - then landing, as was intended, in the bin. There were lots of other balls of crumpled paper in there, all writhing in pain and moaning about being "discarded realities" and "unworthy" or "inferior." There were even whispered conversations about there being an open rebellion; talk quickly quashed by the older and wiser versions of unwanted history who had already tried, and failed.

In a dark and dank room of Unseen University in Anhk-Morpork, three wizards met secretly4. They were all surprisingly sober, for wizards.

"We've got to do something," said the first, pulling his tall pointed hat with the word Wijjurd stitched onto it over his face.

"Why?" asked the second. At a mere ninety-six years of age, he was still a very junior wizard, having only achieved the third level.

"Do you want to have to put up with these reality changes all the time?" the third wizard snapped. Then he turned to the first, "What can we do," he asked plaintively. "We've tried everything possible but none of it seems to work."

"You're right," the first agreed. "That's my point. That's why we need something more powerful."

"The Gods?" the second piped hopefully but the others were not listening to him.

"But it's forbidden..."

"Do we have a choice?"

"Good point, but who would do it?"

"Not me, and not you," the first wizard admitted. "We can't risk the side effects. But we can't afford to use someone from outside this group." He grinned from behind the shadows of his wide brimmed hat. The third man nodded in agreement.

The second wizard was sitting quietly, counting on his fingers. He was trying desperately to work out how many Gods they would need to contact, and which order they should do it in. Considering that some were renowned for not returning calls and others rarely bothered to listen to their answering machines...

The third wizard looked hard at the first. "I hope it's not hereditary," he said, shaking his head desperately.

In most universes, the number seven is special. Sometimes it is the number of days in a week. Elsewhere it is a number that supposedly radiates power. On another world it is the number of minutes that the green spotted anteater spends copulating...

On the disk, it was none of these. Seven, on the disk, was merely the number after six, the square root of fifty minus one. Seven was the number before 7a!

Now 7a was a most interesting number. It was the number of colours in the rainbow, the number of seasons in a year and the number of legs owned by a pair of terriers - short of an accident.

7a was the number of magic.

And it was a well-known fact that the 7a'th son of a 7a'th son was a natural wizard. Should a wizard also have 7a sons, that last child would be a sorcerer, an overly powerful magical catalyst; thus the reason that no wizard in his right mind would ever consider having sex5. That, and the popular misconception that sex would drain away their magical powers, that the spells they had so laboriously memorized would somehow leak out when...

But we are not bothered by such rumours. There is no truth to them anyway... or is there?

One thing though that is of interest to us is that there were two wizards in Unseen University who believed that a sorcerer would be able to put an end to the bifurcations of reality that were causing Jerakeen's sneezing. They could live with the changes themselves; it was the elephant's sudden movements that were causing the most damage.

As to why the Creator landed one of the four elephants which stood on Great A'Tuin's back with an allergy to cosmic rearrangement then plagued the disk with such can only be speculated on - for the moment. With any luck, it might just be explained if you read on. (Who do you think you're kidding?)

Thus it was arranged for the second wizard - whose name happened to be Ederik Oraromic, though I doubt anyone could care less about that - to start having children. He did not agree with the idea, at least not at first. When tied to a table, covered in honey and offered a choice between a woman and a swarm of hungry ants, he chose wisely, becoming quite enthusiastic about the proposed experiment6.

The woman employed to be the mother of the saviour of the world was... - actually, no one knows what her name was, and no one really cares. After all, she was not the sort of woman one would brag about at parties in the weeks following a romantic encounter.

So Ederik, at the age of ninety-three, set about creating a family. First came a son, and then two daughters. These were rapidly followed by another son, then twins - one of each - and three more daughters. Two more sons followed in quick succession, along with a stillborn daughter.

Then he had lunch7.

Given what he had just been through, Ederik ate a hefty lunch. It was in fact a banquet for twenty people, twenty more hearty eaters than any wizard would ever be. Normally, such quantities of food would have last the scrawny old man for a year or more, but for the first time in his life, he was enjoying himself!

Once lunch was over, two more daughters, sandwiching the sixth son, were conceived, born and delivered. Next up was the seventh son, followed by a run of five daughters. By now, elderly Oraromic was really getting the hang of things. There was little about sex that he did not know better than he knew the back of his hand8.

Then came the big moment, by which time the senior wizards of Unseen University knew exactly what was going on. Though they were usually consumed by their studies and search for knowledge - and thus power and prestige - they took time out to enquire about the sudden appearance of so many screaming children. And to make matters worse, most of them were girls9.

Thus it happened that Ederik's 7a'th son was born.

But unlike the other brats, who were instantly banished from the transdimensional building along with their father, Ederik's 7a'th son was kept by the other wizards, who immediately saw his use in stopping the disruptions caused by Jerakeen's twitching. The child, whom the wizards forgot to name, quickly grew until, at the age of three, he was deemed ready for the task that awaited him.

Terry looked up. Standing in the doorway was a child - a child he felt he should know. "Who?" he began, the words dying in his throat as he saw the writing on the child's baseball cap.

He read carefully: Wizard2.

You should know me, Creator. The words entered his head unbidden, almost as though he had thought them himself. In fact, he felt that he had thought them himself, or at least a part of him had.

What was wrong? Was he hallucinating?

I am part of you as you are part of me, the voice came again. It was a strange voice; it was soft and young, yet it held untold power. Terry looked at the child before him. He had not moved.

What do you want?

You should know.

Is something wrong? Before the thoughts had even materialized in his head, he knew the answer. There was something wrong with the Disk, the world he had created in his mind so many years ago, the world that had slowly evolved and grown, becoming more real with every passing second. But what?

And again he knew the answer. He knew why the child was there, what was to be asked of him.

"Why should I?" he asked aloud.

Because I ask it of you.

And if I refuse? With sudden, blinding clarity he saw what would happen if he refused to comply with the wishes of those who inhabited the world he had created. He saw the fate that would await him if he denied his creation their rights.

It was not a pleasant sight.

"Before I answer," he said, "let me ask you one question." The boy nodded and he continued; "Why did you come here?"

"Because, had it not been for my purpose in life, I never would have been."

"Very well," Terry whispered after a moment, his head bowed. The boy, he knew, was only a sorcerer and in himself not a substantial threat. The threat that hung over him though was more than he could hope to survive. He could not live through an encounter with a being who could undo everything he had done - and more - with a single thought.

He did not dare to face a puppeteer10.

  1. Disc wizards are well known for their egocentric nature and ruthless quest for power. The idea of creating something - or someone - more powerful than themselves was nauseatingly revolting.
  2. Wizards are in general arrogant and self-centred, but they are also top of the class when it comes to cowardice.
  3. Such is the nature (or perhaps lack thereof) of Unseen University that time is not a continuous function but a fluctuating hyper-complex space. This effect allows much to be accomplished in a very short time or virtually nothing to be accomplished in a very long time (the latter being the more prominent among wizards).
  4. When you're carrying a fair amount of the world's weight on your shoulder for several million years, you don't really get a chance to socialize all that much.
  5. The very slow rate of propagation of light on the disc is due to the heavy magical field surrounding the world. Disc light, when compared with light anywhere else, can only be described as lazy, and somewhat temperamental! In the mornings, light would flow gently across the world's surface like a tidal wave of golden treacle, gathering en masse behind anything larger than man sized then surging round. Evenings were just as bad, with light lingering in valleys and ravines then seeping away ever so slowly, sometimes waiting until the following dawn.
  6. The colour of pure magic.
  7. All right, all right! So there was nothing all that secretive about their meeting except that no one else was actually present, not that it mattered. It is said, metaphorically, that walls have ears. In Unseen University though, there was absolutely nothing metaphoric about it. The walls really did have ears... and mouths and eyes and noses and arms and... And could be easily bribed... 'Nough said.
  8. Which was not saying much. After all, how well does anybody really know the back of their hand? Have you any idea how many hairs are on yours?
  9. Along with the rest of their faults - or redeeming characteristics, depending on your point of view - every last wizard was a male chauvinist pig and an ardent misogynist.
  10. As a wizard squared is a sorcerer, a sorcerer squared is a puppeteer.