The Man Who Used The Universe by Alan Dean Foster

He still felt no different than he had at breakfast this morning. These last two were more troublesome than the jeweler had been, but only from a technical standpoint. Emotionally, they affected him not at all.

First he would have to dispose of the corpses and clean the room. Ordinarily, in such situations, you contacted the members of a rival syndicate who specialized in such janitorial specialities, but at the moment he wasn’t prepared to trust anyone. The world of illegals was full of gruff competition, but Lal’s equals were more allies than enemies. They’d be more inclined to help a powerful syndicate boss like Lal than a mistrusted and unpredictable youth.

It would take quite a while to properly and completely dispose of the bodies, since the apartment’s trashall couldn’t handle any debris larger than a third of a meter square, but he would have to endure the odious task alone. No, he wouldn’t trust any of Lal’s counterparts. Loo-Macklin hadn’t trusted a human being since he could remember….



His mother had been a voluntary whore, which is something quite different from an involuntary one. She enjoyed her work, or perhaps wallowed in it would be a better description. An intelligent woman who could have aspired to something more, she apparently savored the endless and inimitable varieties of degradation her clients subjected her to. It was an obvious case of a profession fully suited to a state of mind.

Loo-Macklin’s father remained a permanent enigma, apparently by mutual choice of both parents. He had no brothers or sisters. When his mother had turned him over to the state for raising, at the age of six (just old enough to appreciate what was happening to him), she’d shrugged him off without a parting glance.

He had no idea where she was, if she was dead or alive, and he didn’t much care. That day at the ward office was vivid in his memory, if for no other reason than that it was the first and last time he’d ever cried.

He had a very good memory and the conversation was clear in his mind.

“Are you sure, ma’am,” the sallow-faced social clerk had asked her, “that you don’t want to try and raise the boy yourself? You seem to have the capabilities, both mental and fiscal.”

Loo-Macklin had been standing in a corner. That was his punishment for taking an expensive chronometer apart to see how it worked. The fact that he’d put it back together again in perfect working order hadn’t mitigated his treatment. He could have turned his head to see his mother and the strange, tired little man talking, but that would result in another beating later on. So he kept his eyes averted and satisfied himself by listening closely, aware that something important relating to him personally was being decided.

“Look, I didn’t want the little ghit,” his mother was saying. “I don’t know for sure why I’ve put up with him for this long. Anyway, I’m going off on a long trip and the gentleman friend I’m going to be traveling with doesn’t want him along. Nor do I.”

“But surely, ma’am, when you come back…”

“Yeah, sure, when I come back,” she’d said in boredom, “then we’ll see.”

He remembered the perfume of her dopestick reaching him in his corner, rich and pungent and expensive.

“Besides, maybe somebody else can do something with him. I never was cut out to be no mother. When I found out I was past termination time I thought of suing the damn chemical company.”

“If you were so against raising him why wait ’til now to hand him to the ward?”

“I think I was drunk at the time of decision-making,” she said with a high laugh that Loo-Macklin could remember quite clearly. It was shrill and flutey, like an electronic tone but with less feeling.

“Doesn’t matter anyway. He’s here. I know I should’ve turned him over years ago, but I’ve been busy. Business, you know. Occupies most of my time. Anyway, I turned around one day and figured out he was always getting underfoot. Besides which I … well, look at him, just look at him. He looks like a little orangutan without the long hair.”

The loathing in her voice did not trouble Loo-Macklin as he remembered it. It had been different then, in the office. He’d begun sobbing softly, a peculiar sensation, the warm tears running down his face.

The clerk had cleared his throat. “Naturally, this is your choice as a legal citizen, ma’am.”

“Yeah, I know, and it _is_ my choice. So let’s get the forms together and let me imprint ’em. I’ve got a shuttle to catch and I’m damned if I’m going to be late.”

They’d done so. Then she’d stood, said to the clerk, “He’s all yours,” and left.

Loo-Macklin blinked and studied the humming trashall. He was almost finished with the last of Gregor’s body. Vascolin had gone first. There was only a leg left of the second assassin’s body.

He used the tiny arcer, another instrument from his personal arsenal, to slice the leg in half below the knee. He fed the upper half into the efficient unit. There was a soft buzz as the meat was deboned and then the bone itself ground up and shoved into the city sewer system. The last piece followed, the fragments cascading down the ceramic opening in the kitchen chest.

There were dark spots on the counter nearby where Loo-Macklin’s fingers had been gripping it. His hands were slightly numb. He forced himself to relax, regulated his breathing. Only rarely did he get so upset.

After concluding the gruesome job he cleaned both rooms and then allowed himself a leisurely hot shower. He put on a plain silver and blue checked jumpsuit with false epaulets and then opened a sealed cabinet by placing the five fingers of his right hand into the appropriate receptacles on it.

There was a _click_ and the dual panels slid apart. Inside the cabinet, neatly stored and arranged, were the tools of his current trade. He’d been collecting them for several years now. They shone as brightly as any surgeon’s instruments.

Choosing the one he thought most suitable to the task at hand, he closed and locked the cabinet. After spraying both rooms with deodorant he turned off the lights and exited. Loo-Macklin was as neat as he was thorough.

Lal was a small man, but relative physical size is important only to social primitives whose ignorance renders their opinions useless. The guaran lizard of Aelmos is only three inches long, but its bite can kill in two minutes.

The syndicate chief’s hair was turning silver. It fit him, gave him a distinguished look, as did the electric velvet suit he wore, its shimmering black field rising a quarter centimeter above the surface of the charged material. The expensive electrostatic clothing bespoke wealth and position.

Lal was a twentieth-class illegal, quite high status for one from a world like Evenwaith. He couldn’t expect to break into single number status in Cluria, but he had hopes.

His large private home consisted of many small domes connected to the tubes by security-monitored accessways. Gathered there that night were men and women of all statuses, from their sixties to their teens, legal and illegal alike.

Unlike some of his underworld colleagues, Lal affected a respectability he could not hope, as an illegal, to actually achieve. But appearances were important to him, and he’d long ago decided that if he couldn’t have the real thing, he could at least possess the impression of it. Such grand parties were one way of doing so.

A hand was laid gently on his shoulder and he looked up and around into the face of Jenine, one of his current mistresses. She was a thirty-second-class illegal, a very sharp lady, but one of limited ambition. She was quite pleased with her present role. Her investments in legal corporations were making her wealthy.

In a few years she would probably leave Lal and retire to a life of ease and gentility. That didn’t bother him. He understood her desires as clearly as he did his own. There would be other women around. Power and money are ever handsome.

“Something wrong, my dear?”

“No.” She leaned over and he felt the warmth of lightly clad breasts against his shoulder, always a delightful sensation. “That elegant young gentleman over there…”

“The one with the mustache?”

“No, the one standing next to him.”

“Ah, I believe that’s Ao Tilyamet. His father is a twelve and President of the Coamalt Rare Metals Group, Cremgro. They operate out of Bourlt Terminus, down south. Want an introduction?”

A hand ran through his thinning hair. “I never have to tell you anything, do I, darling?”

“No, my dear. Because we understand each other.”

“You don’t mind, of course?”

“Of course not.” He smiled up at her as they started toward the group of chatting young men. “I would if this were tomorrow night.”

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Categories: Alan Dean Foster