SAGITTARIUS WHORLThe Rampart Worlds: Book 3 (Excerpt) Behold a comatose human guy in a dystasis tank, hooked to a psychotronic apparatus that plays the same lovely dream over and over and over and over. He is being genetically engineered. That much he knows, because he's been in one of the damned vats before3sometime, somewhere. The details are a mystery. He drifts in the glass coffin of bubbly oxygen-charged goo, too stoned by the drugs to react rationally during his brief interludes of semiconsciousness. The wakeful bits, when he manages to force open his eyes and peer myopically through the perfluorocarbon liquid, are fuzzy and surreal and punctuated by stabs of fear and helpless anger. During them, the floater recalls one vivid short-term memory snippet . . . He sits in a smoke-filled bar in a hollow asteroid in the distant Sagittarius Whorl, and the Haluk smiles at him as his consciousness starts to drain away. He remembers his despairing certainty, in the final instant before oblivion, that the aliens are probably going to subject him to something outrageously weird this time around, having failed to finish him off during their previous assaults and batteries. He squirms in the dystasis tank, making a futile attempt to swim up, push off the lid, and break free. But his limbs and trunk are firmly clamped in an upright frame. Only his head, gripped less tightly, is able to move a little. He remembers a few more things. He can swim. He can cook. He can pilot a starship. He can ride a horse. He's a disgrace. He's a lawyer. He's a scuba diver. He's a zillionaire. He was a cop. He was a suicidal drunk. He was a political gadfly. He was . . . doing something that got him in deepest shit. When he finishes wrenching his head around uselessly, he sees another transparent-walled container next to his own. Inside it another body is dimly visible in reddish womb-light, a companion in dystasis. Straining, he tries to get a better view of the other person, but finds it impossible. His mouth opens in a silent roar of frustration. With his lungs and the rest of his respiratory tract full of liquid, his vocal cords are as impotent as those of an unborn baby. The dystasis monitoring equipment detects his frantic muscle contractions and the hormonal flood that indicates an agitated mental state. Naughty, naughty! His struggles are disrupting the genetic engineering procedure. The apparatus programs deeper anesthesia. He plummets back into slumber mode and the umpteenth dream replay begins. He's always with his wife, whose name he can't recall any more than he can remember his own. There is background musicScott Hamilton playing "Round Midnight" on a tenor saxophone. The bedroom is very large and of a rustic southwestern ranch style, with a high-beamed ceiling and walls of whitewashed adobe, adorned with antique Native American weavings and artwork featuring elegantly lewd pastel flower shapes. Double-glazed sliding doors with parted curtains reveal that it's night and snowing hard outside. The sound of the blizzard wind occasionally breaks up through cascades of gentle jazz. White drifts are piling up outside on the patio. He and his wife, young newlyweds, sit side by side on a shearling rug before a blazing fire. They're naked, propped happily against each other, sipping Roederer Cristal while they watch the dancing flames. Her hair is ash-blond, rippling after being released from its braided chignon, and reaches halfway down her back. Her eyes are the color of deep ocean waters beyond the reef. She is striking rather than pretty, and her features in repose are solemn until he caresses her and makes her smile. Time to make love again. And again, and again, as the psychotronic machine endlessly loops his most exquisite memory to facilitate the dystasis procedure. The poor happy schmuck in the tank is mMay, Julian is the author of 'Sagittarius Whorl An Adventure of the Rampart Worlds', published 2001 under ISBN 9780345395184 and ISBN 0345395182.