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Beyond the world we know there is a multiverse of Modes where many strange realities interlock in an infinitely intricate pattern, and a perverse and deranged Emperor plays a deadly multidimensional game with human pawns as his slaves.
Now in DoOon Mode, Piers Anthony delivers the breathtaking climax to this awesome saga. Fearing the heroine Coleen’s dawning power, the depraved Emperor Ddwng dispatches a terrible Mind Monster to assault her soul and bend her to his will. To protect herself, and those she loves, Coleen must journey back through many worlds to her own home on Earth, face her deepest and darkest fears, and draw the strength for a final confrontation to save the multiverse from tyranny and domination.
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New York Times-bestselling author Piers Anthony has written over one hundred books. His first fantasy, A Spell for Chameleon, won the August Derleth Fantasy Award for best novel in 1977, and commenced his acclaimed Xanth series.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
ONEFelinesCat crouched on the stand, pondering. It was not at crouched on the stand, pondering. It was not given to the stresses of emotion, but did feel troubled. The situation of their trio was not good, and the Feline nulls were suffering. Something needed to be done, but the course of action that offered was not benign. Perhaps they would be best off if they simply waited out the negative period, trusting to time to ameliorate the problem.Cat felt as if its tail were twitching nervously, though of course there was no tail. The course of action that offered had a limited period for adoption, and that period ended in one more day. Thereafter that option would be lost, and it seemed unlikely that it would be repeated. Cat suspected that it related to the Virtual Mode project; if so, it was of special interest to the Felines. Perhaps it should be mentioned to the others. Yet their emotions governed them unduly; it was their nature. They were too apt to react rashly.There was one day remaining to decide. Cat put its headdown and napped, awaiting the return of the others.There was no mistaking their arrival. Tom's extended toe-claws clacked against the floor, evidence of anger. Pussy was mewling, evidence of grief. Something ill had happened.They burst into the chamber. Tom was a powerful figure of a human man, his only feline aspects being his head, retractable claws, and a certain furriness. Pussy was a lovely figure of a human female, with the facial features of her feline persuasion. They were really human androids with their features tweaked to make them suggest cats, exactly as was the case with Cat itself. Male, female, and neuter: the Feline nulls."Oh, Cat!" Pussy cried, stepping into Cat's reassuring embrace. "It was awful!" Now, in privacy, she felt free to let her tears flow."It was an outrage!" Tom snapped, striking the featureless dummy and raking it with his claws."Let me guess," Cat said, letting Pussy sob into its shoulder. "The Swine?""The Swine," Tom agreed. "We were just trying to dance at the null club. No one asked us, so Pussy addressed a Canine. Hound looked interested. They were about to dance, when Sow cut in and took Hound herself. The others laughed. They won't let us forget, even for a moment." He clawed the dummy again."Hound would have danced with me," Pussy said brokenly. "He liked me. I could tell. He would have taken me into the private stall and humped me. I haven't been humped in a month! And Sow knew it.""And I can't hump any of the females," Tom growled. "They all look down on me, because I'm unemployed.""Because we're unemployed," Cat said. "Remember, we are in this together.""I wish we could get an assignment," Pussy sobbed, not much comforted. "Why can't we?""You know why," Tom said, clawing the dummy again. "The employers don't want us.""But it wasn't our fault!""But they still blame us," Tom said. This time he actually gouged out a chunk of material."It's so unfair! We're good nulls. We never fouled up."Cat was on the verge of deciding. He postponed it for a moment by clarifying their situation once agian. "We are good nulls, and it is unfair to make us pariahs. But this is the way the limited minds of the Swine work, and the others take their cues from them.""Because the Swine serve Ddwng," Tom said. This time he punched the dummy, and it rocked back with the force of the blow. Because his hands were essentially human, he could do this when he chose."So they fouled up," Pussy said, finally disengaging from Cat. "So why aren't they blamed?"Cat tried to find a way to explain it that she could accept. She was emotional, and that got in the way of her thinking. "It is the convention that the master can't make a mistake. So when something goes wrong, someone else must be blamed. I doubt that anyone could have protected Ddwng from that error, but it is the job of the Swine to facilitate his convenience in any way feasible, so the implication is that they failed. They can't accept that, so they suggest that we, as the nulls serving the alien visitor, must have been at fault. Therefore the blame falls on us, and we have no one to pass it along to. We have become the pariahs of convenience. Therefore unemployable, until the situation changes.""Just what did go wrong?" Tom asked. "All I heard was that Ddwng was ready to go with the alien party, there in the palace. Then he changed his mind, and they were gone without him.""There was a factor none of us in the DoOon Mode understood," Cat said. "Do you remember the horse?""Horse?" Pussy asked blankly."The young woman Colene came with a beast of burden, a horse," Cat explained. "A stallion who was immediately stabled. It seems that the animal was telepathic.""Telepathic! You mean it could read minds?""Yes. That horse was in mental contact with the girl. It was able to receive and project thoughts. When Ddwng was ready to travel on the Virtual Mode, the horse sent him a thought: a command to free the anchor. Ddwng did that without realizing it until after the fact. I believe it was a very sudden, very powerful thought, striking at a time when the master was making an effort to be mentally receptive to the nature of the Virtual Mode. So he was ambushed, and the alien party escaped.""But a horse--a literal horse, not an Equine null? They don't have human intelligence. How could a mere horse do such a thing?""Whether the animal was sapient at the human level I don't know," Cat said. "I suspect there are stranger things on the Virtual Mode than we know. But it may not have needed such intelligence. It merely obeyed the will of the girl. She was the key to the loss of the Virtual Mode. It seems that Ddwng seriously misjudged the situation, not realizing the power the girl had through the horse.""So she tricked Ddwng, and he is angry, and the blame descends on us because we served her man, Darius," Pussy said, finally getting it."Yes. Perhaps we should have fathomed that aspect, and warned Ddwng. We did not, and could not, because it seems that Darius himself did not know of the horse's nature. The Swine should have fathomed it.""It isn't fair," she repeated, her delicate whiskers trembling."If only we could fight back!" Tom said.Cat decided. "Perhaps we can."Both oriented on the neuter, knowing that it never made foolish or emotional statements. "How?" Tom demanded."It is dangerous.""Anything," Pussy said.So Cat told them. "As you know, I am undistracted by most passions of the flesh, so I have attention for intellectual pursuits. I track the releases of special projects. One is now available that I strongly suspect relates to the Virtual Mode.""Where Darius came from," Pussy said. "Is he coming back?" She had on one occasion come close to seducing the man, and surely had a hankering to complete that business."Perhaps. I understand there are different Virtual Modes, with different travelers. But it seems likely, because Darius had the use of a Chip. I believe the Swine have been watching, and are aware when an anchor changes. I think they want to be ready the next time there is opportunity for our Mode to become an anchor. Since there needs to be an anchor person or persons, they may have in mind training suitable prospects. Of course this is mere conjecture on my part; I am surely mistaken on details, or perhaps on the whole.""But you know something," Tom said."What I know is that there is an opening for volunteers to undertake dangerous training for an important mission. It may not be this one. But if it is, we may have an inherent advantage, because we have had contact with a man who has traveled a Virtual Mode.""Darius," Pussy said dreamily. "I just know I can do him the favor of seducing him.""I think not," Cat said firmly. "The aliens seemed to have different ideas about sexual relations. The man may have been amenable, but the young woman did not wish him to indulge with anyone except her.""But she didn't indulge with him," Pussy protested. "I just know it.""Different cultures, different foibles. It is possible that one reason the woman wished to escape our Mode was that she did not like your association with Darius."She pondered that. "So I may not seduce him?""Not until we know his situation better. But this is academic; we don't know that we will see him again.""Unless we take that opening," Tom said gruffly."Agreed. And it may be for something else entirely. The chance of mortality is listed at fifty percent. So this is not something to undertake lightly.""But it would redeem us?" Pussy asked hopefully."I believe so, if we survive it.""So we'll take it," Tom said.Cat looked at Pussy. She nodded. "We'll take it."
Emperor Ddwng himself made the presentation. He was a man in his fifties, portly and with receding reddish hair, but with piercing black eyes. There was an intensity about him that would have alerted others even if he were not supreme. "Eight teams of nulls are competing. Your mission is to obtain this flag and bring it back here." He held up a silver banner. "When this one is taken, it will be replaced by a lesser flag; the team that brings that one back will be the reserve. There are no other rules." He paused, and they realized that this meant that they could cheat and kill if they had reason. "But there is a complication. You will be accompanied by two human nulls in the forms of our recent visitors from the Virtual Mode: a mature man named Dar and a young woman named Col. The man is trustworthy and knows the location of the flag. The woman can not be trusted, but she knows the route,and will do what the man wishes. She may have special powers. The man will not reveal the location of the flag unless persuaded, and the one who can most readily persuade him is the woman. Thus you will have to relate to these two people, as well as to the hazards of the course itself. The people will not cooperate unless induced. You will be issued pain controls that will work on nulls, but caution is advised because once you hurt them, they will feel free to hurt you. We judge the likely mortality rate to be fifty percent, but this is approximate; it is possible that all of you will die."He gave them a moment to assimilate this, then spoke again. "The winning team will go into training for travel on a Virtual Mode. This is a mission of honor, and the team members will assume the temporary status of full human officers of my court, with the right to address me personally. If the mission on the Virtual Mode is successful, that status will become permanent."All around them, the assembled nulls reacted. Human officer status! This was an unprecedented reward. Cat was not given to emotion, but even it felt the magnitude of this potential. Tom was staring, and Pussy seemed about to faint. The other nulls were responding similarly. All of them were awed. This was a prospect well worth the risk of death. Seldom did any null trio achieve such recognition."Your prisoners are in the eight scattered cubicles," Ddwng continued after a moment. "Proceed." He turned away, dismissing them from his attention.There was a scramble to reach the cubes. "Let's wait a moment," Cat murmured. "We may profit from observing."Tom had been about to launch toward the nearest cube, and Pussy was not far behind. But at Cat's words, they both drew back. They trusted its judgment.There were eight trios and eight cubes, but in their eagernessto be first, three teams converged on the closest cube--the one that the felines would have gone to. These were Ovine, Bovine, and Equine. The Equine horse saw the problem and called off the stallion and mare; they galloped for a farther cube. But the Ovine ram and Bovine bull came together before the cube, lowering their heads. They were of similar size--human--and similar temperament--male--and similar armament--horns. But the use of the horns differed. The ram tried to butt, while the bull tried to gore. The contest was brief and inconclusive, as their neuters called them off and guided them to different cubes. The closest cube was left free."Wait longer," Cat said. "Watch."So they did not approach the cube. Instead they watched the other nulls as they went to the cubes and opened the doors. This much was routine; the man and woman emerged when released, seeming amenable. The male was slightly taller than the male nulls, and the female was somewhat shorter than the female nulls; she was in fact small for a grown woman. Neither was particularly imposing; the man was not muscular and the girl was not buxom.The Swine were the first to get on their way. They ran, and the prisoners ran ahead of them. "They are using the pain buttons," Cat said. It brought out the one they had been given. "The pain is generalized, but strongest nearest the button. So the prisoners are being caused to run by a lash at their backsides, as it were. That is evidently effective, but for how long?""Those buttons hurt," Pussy said. "They can hurt a lot."She was thinking of the time the Felines had been assigned to be with a visiting woman of somewhat sadistic nature. Pussy had done her best to oblige, but the woman seemed to resent her sexy nature, and had burned her on any pretext. Cat had been unable to prevent this mistreatment. They had of course not spoken of it to any otherhuman, but the other nulls had known, and soon the button was replaced with one whose pain was nominal. Pussy had known immediately to act as if the pain were its usual intensity, and so they had gotten by. The masters and mistresses were not normally cruel to nulls, but visitors could be."How do you think a willful human would react to being prodded in this manner?" Cat asked Pussy."He would be angry," she said immediately. "He would strike back, when he had the chance."Cat nodded. "The customary arrogance of the Swine may be their own undoing."Meanwhile the other teams were proceeding at a slower pace. The general pattern seemed to be a somewhat threatening posture by the male, so that the prisoners realized that it was safest for them to cooperate. They were moving out, but did not seem entirely happy about it."They're getting ahead of us," Tom said restlessly."Perhaps. Would there be an advantage to persuasion?" Cat inquired rhetorically.Tom let his claws spring out from his right hand. "I can persuade as well as any.""That is not persuasion," Cat said. "That is threat. How would you do it, Pussy?""I would seduce the male," she said."You tried that before," Tom reminded her. "And made an enemy of the girl.""Meow," she said, embarrassed. "Maybe I should befriend the girl instead.""I suspect that would be wise," Cat said. "Other teams are using force of one kind or another. That may indeed be the answer. But we were warned that there will be surprises. Some of them may be in the nature of the prisoners. I think we should set ourselves apart from the others by truly befriending the prisoners, if that is feasible. That may not be the winning strategy, but it would bedifferent, and sometimes difference is the key to succ...
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Book Description Brilliance Audio, 2009. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M1423376943