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The Ringworld Slayer

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Summary: A special ficlet, in the fandom that gave me my online name, to commemorate my 1000th review here. Willow's spell to activate all Potentials has effects far beyond this Earth. Crossover with Larry Niven's 'Ringworld' series.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Literature > Sci-Fi > Ringworld(Current Donor)SpeakertocustomersFR1515,6540151,31628 Feb 0928 Feb 09Yes
Disclaimer: All rights to ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ and the concepts of Slayers and Watchers remain with Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, the writers of the original episodes, and the TV and production companies responsible for the original television shows. BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER ©2002 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved. The Buffy the Vampire Slayer trademark is used without express permission from Fox. Some lines taken from the episodes ‘Chosen’, ‘Prophecy Girl’, and ‘Becoming Part 2’. ‘Ringworld’ was created by Larry Niven in the novels ‘Ringworld’, ‘The Ringworld Engineers’, ‘The Ringworld Throne’, and ‘Ringworld’s Children’. The characters Louis Wu (Luweewu), Valavirgillin, Kaywerbrimmis, Foranayeedli and Seeker are the property of Larry Niven.

The Ringworld Slayer

Two hundred light years from Earth an immense structure rotates around a yellow star. A million miles across, six hundred million miles in circumference, the Ringworld spins fast enough to provide an artificial gravity almost identical to that of Earth. Twenty ‘shadow squares’ orbiting closer to the sun provide the illusion of night and day. It is a habitable area of unimaginable vastness. Living space for trillions of sentient creatures. But it is no paradise…

- - - - -

The Scythe glowed with white light. Willow’s hair turned white. “Oh, Goddess,” she whispered. Mystical energy radiated outwards and filled the Potentials in the chamber below the Seal of Danthalazar.

“These guys are dust,” Vi said, and she leapt to the attack. She kicked a Turok-Han and sent it flying. Rona felled another. Amanda staked one through the heart.

Within a fraction of a second the wave had blanketed the Earth. Potentials all over the planet became Slayers. Six seconds later the energy pulse washed over the empty wastes of the Moon. Three hours later it passed Jupiter. It continued on out of the Solar System and into the vastness of interstellar space at 23 per cent of the speed of light.

Nine hundred years later it reached the Ringworld…


- - - - -

Linrathanilar cowered against the side of the cruiser and tried to control her shaking hands as she reloaded her handgun. Only two bullets left. There seemed to be hundreds of vampires. The improvised mask that protected her from vampire scent was drying out.

Two of the crew had already succumbed. They had abandoned their posts and headed towards the vampires, tearing off their clothes as they went, and rushed eagerly to their doom. Wagonmaster Trantarathnee had shot one of the deserters in the leg but it hadn’t stopped him. He’d crawled on into the shadow, out of handgun range, and disappeared from sight. By now he would be dead.

And soon, it seemed, the rest of them would follow.

It hadn’t been supposed to be this way. It should have been a simple scavenging mission, perhaps turning into a trading operation if the allegedly deserted floating city turned out to still be inhabited by City Builders, an opportunity for Intrepid Mercantile to put one over on Farsight Trading and make a good profit. They hadn’t expected vampires. Perhaps they should have, as the perpetual shadow of the floating city was an ideal habitat for the creatures, but it had occurred to no-one and they had ventured blithely into deadly peril.

It was Linrathanilar’s first trip. An opportunity for her to acquire some experience. She had a suspicion that part of the reason she had been invited along was because she was a very pretty girl, just old enough to be eligible for rishathra but with a beard fringe still faint enough not to be off-putting to those Peoples whose females had naked faces, and City Builders were renowned as skilled and considerate lovers. Ideal for a first time.

Unfortunately that first time was probably going to be with a vampire and Lin wouldn’t survive.

They weren’t totally unprepared. The tale of Valavirgillin’s encounter with vampires was known to many of the Machine People. Vala, and Luweewu who claimed to be from another world outside the Arch, had discovered that it wasn’t the song of vampires that drove their victims mad with desire. It was their scent. The towels soaked in fuel that Lin and her companions wore over their faces were an attempt to deal with that scent. It had worked for a while. If there had been only a small number of vampires, like the band of fifteen that had attacked Vala’s High Rangers group, it would have been sufficient.

Against hundreds, maybe thousands, it was failing. The alcohol fuel evaporated and the towels dried out. The vampires kept on coming. They got past the cannon fire by sheer weight of numbers. At close quarters they attacked with fangs, and clawing hands, and if one managed to tear away a mask in the struggle that was the end of it. Two of the crew had fallen so far, as well as the two who had gone willingly to their deaths, and the ammunition was running low. The cruiser’s front axle was damaged and they couldn’t retreat.

Lin was only sixty-two falans old and she didn’t want to die.

She fumbled the bullets home in the nick of time. A fresh wave of vampires charged. Her uncle Grashavinar, manning the nearest cannon, fired and three of the attackers fell. The rest came on.

Lin was supposed to protect the cannon’s flanks. Unfortunately Himbrarathis had been supposed to cover her, but Himbra had been one of those who had lost his mask and ran out to meet the vampires, and now Lin was trying to protect herself and the cannon and it wasn’t working.

Two vampires reached the cruiser. They jumped, caught the edge of the firing platform, and began to pull themselves up. Lin shot one dead but then another vampire charged at her out of the darkness. She turned her gun and fired. She scored a hit, the vampire fell to its knees, but then her gun was empty, and there were more vampires coming, and one reached her as she was drawing her knife, and its hands came up and latched on to her towel mask and pulled it from her face and the scent hit her and she…

…had been wrong. This was no enemy, this was the most beautiful and desirable person under the Arch, and she wanted him. She needed him to hold her, to touch her, to enter her; it wouldn’t be just rishathra, it would be making love. She burned for him, and she had to have him now, and her clothes were in the way. She dropped the gun, and the knife, and the wondrously gorgeous vampire stepped back to give her room to strip off her clothes. Her hands went to her belt and then…

A voice sounded in her head. “Do you want to be strong?

Lin’s head cleared. Her hand froze. She was going to give herself to a vampire, and he would rip out her throat as they rished, and he’d gorge himself on her blood and she’d die. Up on the firing platform Uncle Grash had also lost his mask and was stripping. He’d die, and she’d die, and the vampires would overrun the position and everyone in the Company would die.

Do you want to be strong?

“Yes!” Lin shouted out an answer to the question. Suddenly images filled her head.

FLASH

Her skin was dark, her clothes were animal skins, and she stalked through long grass under a night sky with no Arch. A strange round object, like a dim copy of the sun, hung overhead where the Arch should have been. An animal rose up and looked at her, something long but low with many spots on its fur, and it opened a wide mouth to reveal sharp fangs. It hissed, backed away, and then turned and fled. She smiled and strode on. By a waterhole she found the prey she sought. Its teeth were buried in the throat of one of the village hunters. She crept up on it with her spear poised. It sensed her approach, released its grip on its victim, and turned. It raised its hands to protect itself but her thrust was too fast, too powerful, and her spear sank into its chest. It screamed once and then exploded into a cloud of dust.

FLASH

There were bracelets of soft metal on her arms and bangles at her ankles. A garment of thin cloth, colored in hoops of blue and white, covered her body below her bare breasts and extended down below her knees. The material was pleated so that it did not hamper the movement of her legs. She held a double-headed axe in her hands as she walked through tunnels with walls of painted stone. Ahead of her a monster loomed, as tall as one of the Grass Giants, but its face was extended into a long muzzle and it had horns upon its head. It held an axe of its own, dwarfing hers, but she raised her weapon and charged.

FLASH

She knelt, naked, on wet grass. The air was thick with moisture, like the fog from the Boiled Sea, and the light was dim. Her body was covered in blood; not hers, but the blood of one that she loved. She felt overwhelming grief but also a cold and bitter anger. Men clad in armor of metal rings faced her, bearing swords and axes, and some had mouths filled with fangs. She rose to her feet, took up a sword in each hand, and destroyed them.

FLASH

A thorn fence surrounded the camp and a blazing fire illuminated the huts. She was manacled at her wrists and her ankles, as were those around her, and their skin and hers were a brown so deep that in the firelight it seemed black. They were naked but for scraps of cloth. None of them had hair on their jaws but all had hair growing on top of their heads. Men with similarly dark skins, clad in gaudy clothes and armed with crude guns, bartered with bearded men whose heads were covered and who wore curved swords at their sides. Guns and gunpowder were exchanged for the teeth of gigantic animals, obviously far bigger than any loadbeast, and for slaves. She kept her eyes lowered but watched surreptitiously. After a while she saw an altercation. One of the gun-wielding black men – a ‘Ruga-Ruga’, something in her mind told her – shouted at a bearded man and shook a fist. The bearded man’s face transformed, his forehead distorting and fangs appearing in his mouth, and the Ruga-Ruga recoiled in fright. She grinned. Her suspicions had been confirmed. She tore the shackles from her limbs and began to kill.

FLASH

The man’s head was properly bald but he had no beard fringe. His nose and forehead were distorted in ways which did not match any of the Peoples that she knew. He spoke. “You were destined to die. It was written!”

She shrugged her shoulders. “What can I say? I flunked the written.” They fought, trading blows, until she threw him from a high place to die impaled.

FLASH

A tall man, with dark hair sticking up on the top of his head, faced her with a sword in his hand. “Now that’s everything, huh? No weapons, no friends, no hope.” He advanced, sword poised, and she closed her eyes. “Take all that away,” he said, “and what’s left?”

Her eyes were still closed but she sensed his sword-thrust. She caught the blade between her hands and spoke. “Me.”

FLASH

She sat in a group of other girls. All of them had too much hair on top of their heads, like the Farming People, but most of them wore it long at the back like her own people and the City Builders. Their lips were too thick and some of them had applied pigments to make them even more prominent. A young woman, her hair blonde like that of a vampire, stood in front of the group and faced them.

“From now on,” the standing woman said, “every girl in the world who might be a Slayer… will be a Slayer. Every girl who could have the power… will have the power. Can stand up… will stand up. Slayers, every one of us, make your choice. Are you ready to be strong?”


“Yes,” Linrathanilar said again. She smashed her fist into the vampire’s handsome face. It collapsed on the spot. Another vampire rushed at her. She seized its outstretched arm, twisted, and slammed the vampire face-first into the cruiser’s hull. As it bounced off she caught it by the head, wrenched, and broke its neck.

The other vampires paused. They stared at Lin. She could sense their confusion. Her mask was gone, there was nothing to protect her from their deadly scent, and they obviously couldn’t understand her resistance.

She bent, scooped up her knife from the ground, and threw without even taking time to aim. Up on the weapon platform the vampire who was embracing a semi-naked Grash released its prey and staggered back. It clutched at the knife-hilt protruding from its neck, reeled, and fell from the cruiser to the ground.

Grash jumped down after it. Blood was trickling from a bite mark at the side of his neck. He bent down towards the fallen vampire briefly, straightened up, and then headed for the next nearest female vampire.

Lin rolled her eyes. “Stop, you idiot!” she shouted. “Get back to the cannon!” He ignored her, as she had expected, and swept the willing vampire into his arms. The vampire’s mouth opened wide and fangs glinted in the light of the cruiser’s torches.

Lin sprinted toward him. A vampire grabbed at her and she chopped with the edge of her hand at its throat. It collapsed, choking and clutching at its neck, and she ran on. She vaulted over another vampire and ran on. She reached Grash, pulled the vampire off him, and struck upwards with the heel of her hand to the vampire’s nose.

It dropped dead on the spot.

“How am I doing this?” Lin wondered. “Am I dying and hallucinating?” She pinched herself. “Ouch! Apparently not.” Grash reached out for her. “Are you okay?” she asked him, and then realized that he was extremely aroused and he wasn’t grabbing her in any remotely avuncular fashion. “Eww, gross!” she exclaimed. “You’re my uncle!” He took no notice of her protests and tried to open her clothing. His eyes, as far as she could see them in the poor light, appeared to be unfocused and his mouth hung slackly open.

Lin was still feeling waves of lust, heat emanating from her groin, but she had no difficulty in suppressing it. She forced Grash’s hands away, grimaced, and then took aim at his jaw. In normal circumstances she wouldn’t have thought it even possible for her to beat her uncle in a fight. Now she worried about injuring him. She held herself back and hit him with only a fraction of her full strength. His head jerked, his eyes rolled up, and he collapsed.

Two vampires were closing in, presumably having intended to attack while Lin was occupied with Grash, and when Grash fell they both rushed at Lin. She spun on her heel and brought up her other leg in a kick that sent one of the vampires flying through the air to crash to the ground five body-lengths away. She continued the spin and lashed the back of a fist into the side of the other one’s head. She felt the vampire’s bone cracking beneath her fist and saw a depression in its skull as it fell. She picked up her unconscious uncle from the ground and swung him onto her shoulders.

“How am I doing this?” she asked, speaking aloud but only to herself. She was astonished when she seemed to receive an answer.

Slayer’, something inside her head seemed to whisper. ‘Sister. She who kills the vampires. Slayer.’

“I don’t understand,” she answered, not knowing if she spoke to herself or to someone or something else, “but I’m not objecting.” She adjusted her hold on Grash so that his weight was evenly balanced and set off for the cruiser at a run. This was impossible, she shouldn’t have been able to stand carrying his weight, but he wasn’t even slowing her down. She outran any pursuing vampires, reached the cruiser, and leapt up onto the gun platform with Grash still across her back.

In their absence several vampires had made it up onto the top of the cruiser’s hull and attacked Lortalanigar, who operated the other cannon, and Wagonmaster Trantarathnee. Lin laid Grash down on the weapon platform and leapt to the others’ aid.

She broke the neck of one of Trantarathnee’s attackers, leaving him facing only a single vampire, and he bludgeoned it to death with the butt of his gun. Lin moved on to help Lortalanigar, who had lost her mask and seemed to be trying to hold her breath, and whose vampire opponent was holding back and waiting for its scent to work its deadly magic. It turned to face Lin. She kicked it off the cruiser, retrieved Lortalanigar’s towel-mask from the deck, and handed the cloth back to the gunner.

“Lin! Where’s your mask?” Trant asked, his voice muffled by the towel over his mouth and nose. He thumbed bullets into his handgun with frantic haste.

Lin shrugged. “I don’t seem to need it,” she said. “Anyone have a spare sword? I left my knife in a vampire.” Trant drew his sword and offered it to her. “Thanks!” Lin swished the weapon through the air. “This is so cool.”

“What?” Trant’s eyebrows lowered. “I don’t understand. What’s the temperature of the sword got to do with anything?” He didn’t wait for a reply. A fresh wave of vampires approached and he aimed his gun. “Lort! Get that cannon firing!”

Lin scampered back to the other gun position. She found Grash’s fallen towel, splashed fuel on it, and laid it over her unconscious uncle’s face. It then occurred to her that it would probably fall off when he awoke and moved, exposing him to vampire scent again, and so she hastily tied it in place. By the time she’d accomplished that task the other side’s cannon was blasting out shot, Trant was firing his handgun, and vampires were climbing up onto the deck at her side and at the cruiser’s rear.

She twirled the sword. “Bring it on,” she challenged. She killed two vampires with two sword strokes, kicked another over the side, and decapitated a fourth. The headless body slumped and the head rolled off the deck.

Lin watched the head roll and frowned. For some reason she had expected the remains of the vampire to disintegrate into dust. Ridiculous, of course; hominid bodies would probably take at least a falan to decompose into dust if the Ghouls didn’t eat them. Except in the visions she had seen… She put it out of her mind and killed the next vampire who climbed onto the deck.

- - - - -

The vampires stopped coming eventually. Lin had long since lost count of how many she had killed. Hundreds, she thought. The corpses were piled up ten deep around the cruiser. The later waves had been clambering over hills of bodies to reach the vehicle deck, torn apart by cannon fire as they came, and those who made it past the barrage she had slain.

After a long quiet period Wagonmaster Trantarathnee deemed it safe to work on the damaged axle. Lin helped, of course, and found in the process that she could lift weights that no-one else could manage. The others kept directing odd looks at her; puzzled, even wary. It was upsetting, and although she tried not to let it bother her she didn’t succeed, but it was better than being dead. During the repair work one last group of some twenty or so vampires tried to rush them. Lin killed them all.

At last the repairs were completed. They had to shift mounds of vampire corpses out of the way before they could drive off. As they were clearing away the bodies they heard the sounds of motors approaching. They manned the cannons once more and waited.

The three cruisers of Farsight Trading Company drew near and pulled to a halt. They carried Grass Giants and Red Herders as well as Machine People. The Grass Giants, obviously uncomfortable on the cruiser decks, disembarked as soon as the vehicles halted. Doors opened and Machine People climbed out. Lin knew most of them and one, a girl of her own age called Foranayeedli or Forn for short, was a good friend. Lin waved when she saw Forn. Forn lifted a hand in acknowledgement but made no move to approach. Her head hung down and Lin thought that she looked sad, upset, even dejected. Perhaps she had lost someone dear to her in battle against the vampires.

Valavirgillin, representative of Farsight Trading who were rivals of the Intrepid Mercantile Company for whom Trantarathnee’s crews worked, emerged from a cruiser. Her clothes were dirty and bloodstained. A Red Herder woman walked at her side like an aide or bodyguard. Wagonmaster Kaywerbrimmis joined them and they approached the lone Intrepid cruiser.

Trant gave the order for the gunners to stand down and went to meet the Farsight crews. “Greetings, Valavirgillin, Kay,” he said. “You have also fought the vampires?”

“We have,” Vala confirmed. She surveyed the heaped bodies. “We have slain many, in alliance with the Grass Giants, the Gleaners, and the Red Herders, but no more than you seem to have slain on your own. How many of your people did you lose?”

“Four,” Trant said. He grimaced. “It was a terrible battle. If I had known what we would face I would never have tried to beat you to the loot of this city.”

“If we hadn’t gone to the Grass Giant city first we’d have beaten you here,” Vala said, “but then we’d probably all have died. You did well. Astonishingly so, in fact.”

“We have a secret weapon,” Trant said, “or so it seems. So secret that I didn’t even know about it myself.”

Vala’s expression didn’t change. “I propose an alliance,” she said. “We need to exterminate the vampires before we can explore the city. I have made alliances with the Giants and the Gleaners, and with the Red Herders, and so can contribute much manpower. The Giants are distilling their beer into fuel we both can use. Is your weapon one that you can share with us?”

“I am not averse to an alliance,” Trant said. “Without a full crew we would otherwise have to depart. If you can spare a couple of crewmen, and a few of your allies as infantry support, we can fight on. We will accept a lesser share of the spoils than Farsight Trading, as we are fewer in number, as long as you can replenish our ammunition and fuel.”

“A share in proportion to your numbers is acceptable,” Vala said. “Your weapon?”

“Lin, come here,” Trant called. “This is our weapon,” he said, as Lin came forward, “young Linrathanilar. She’s the best fighter I have ever seen. She slew more than the cannons, with a sword and even with her bare hands, and it seems that she needs no mask to protect her from vampire scent.”

“You mock us,” Kaywerbrimmis accused. “Keep your weapon secret, if you must, but there is no need to make up stupid stories.”

Vala tilted her head to one side and studied Lin. She shifted her focus to the vampire corpses and then back to Lin. “No, Kay, I don’t think Trantarathnee mocks us. Look at the bodies. There are as many with sword cuts as with bullet wounds, I would say, and there are too few of the Intrepid crew members to have done that unless at least one of them indeed possesses quite extraordinary skill. Louis Wu told me of a warrior called Seeker, a City Builder or one of a related People, who could do great things with a sword. Linrathanilar must be another such.”

“I have heard of Seeker,” Kaywerbrimmis said. “He is said to be thousands of falans old, forever searching for the base of the Arch, honing his swordsmanship over many lives of men. Lin is a girl of our own People who has been a friend of our Forn since they were both children. Where could she have learned such skill?”

“Why don’t we just ask her?” Vala said. She smiled at Lin. “Linrathanilar, did you truly slay great numbers of the vampires?”

Lin bowed her head. “I did, lady Valavirgillin,” she said, “but I don’t know how. They were going to kill me and then suddenly I felt strong. I knew how to fight without needing to think about it. They were vampires, and it was my purpose to slay them, and I did.”

Vala half closed her eyes. “Louis Wu was seeking something like that,” she said, speaking as if musing aloud, “but he thought it would be someone older. It was important but I did not understand why. If only he was here.” She focused an intense gaze on Lin. “Tell me more.”

Lin hesitated. “I’d rather not,” she said. She shot a glance over her shoulder. The wary looks from her companions had upset her and she didn’t want to relate the story of her vision in case it made them even more suspicious of her.

“Hah!” Kaywerbrimmis snorted. “I knew it. It is just a tale to conceal the truth of whatever weapon they have found. An ancient City Builder weapon, from before the Fall of Cities, or one of Luweewu’s fighting lights stolen forty falans ago and kept concealed until now.”

“We have no such weapon,” Trant assured him. “I could prove it easily enough. All I would have to do would be to get you to fight Lin. I don’t want to ask that of her, however, after what she has been through in these past hours.”

“I don’t mind,” Lin said. “I don’t want to hurt him, but I managed to knock out Uncle Grash without damaging him, and I should be able to do the same to Kaywerbrimmis.”

“Insolent child,” Kaywerbrimmis growled. “If you were not a friend to Forn, and if we did not need this alliance, I would spank you as you deserve.”

“Oh, yeah? Bring it on,” Lin said. She dropped into a crouch and beckoned with her hands. She saw Kaywerbrimmis fuming in fury and she dipped her head. “I am sorry that I speak disrespectfully,” she said. “I don’t know why I said that. Yet I really can beat you in a fight. I’m not just boasting.”

“Trantarathnee, we cannot afford to fight amongst ourselves,” Kaywerbrimmis said, “but she angers me beyond all measure. May I slap her without it breaking our alliance?”

“You can try,” Trant said, “and it will not affect the alliance.”

“Very well, then.” Kaywerbrimmis swung his hand. Three seconds later he lay flat on the ground, his face pressed against the soil, with Lin standing over him with his arm in a painful lock and one of her feet on his neck. He struggled to free himself but to no avail.

“Kay, give up,” Vala commanded. “She could break your arm like a twig, or even crush your neck, if she wanted. They speak truth.”

Lin released her grip and stepped back. “I hope I didn’t hurt you, Wagonmaster Kaywerbrimmis,” she said. “Again I apologize for my disrespectful words. When combat appears to be imminent I seem to lose control of my speech and I know not why.”

“I would never have believed it,” Kaywerbrimmis said. He clambered to his feet and rubbed his arm. “You are a remarkable warrior indeed. I would have thought no-one but a Grass Giant could overcome me with such ease.”

“She is a remarkable fighter, truly,” Trant said, “and without her we’d be dead.”

“Linrathanilar,” Vala said, “you said you would ‘rather not’ reveal more, not that there was no more to reveal. Would you be willing to discuss it further with me in private? I would not pass on anything that you told me without your permission.”

Lin considered it. Valavirgillin’s family lived far off to starboard, and her visits to this region were infrequent. She did not gossip and had a reputation as one who was honest and trustworthy. “I will, lady Valavirgillin,” she agreed. Vala led her to the cargo compartment of one of the Farsight cruisers, currently empty, and they talked there with the door closed.

Lin told Vala of the voice in her head, and the visions that she had seen, and of how she had suddenly found herself stronger than she would have thought possible and with fighting skills that should have taken many falans of practice to acquire. Vala pressed her to describe what she had seen in the visions and she complied as best as she was able.

“A light dimmer than the sun, hanging in a sky with no Arch,” Vala mused. “Louis Wu described such a thing to me. The moon, he called it, a small companion to his ball-shaped world. The people you describe sound as if they could be members of Louis Wu’s Ball People. Louis Wu was a skilled fighter but he was old and experienced. Very experienced,” she said, a wistful note coming into her voice. “Perhaps this is some phenomena from his world,” she went on. “You are the wrong age to be his child, even if it was possible for our Peoples to interbreed, and that cannot be so or I would have had his child for sure. We rished a lot. I think that the cause of your sudden acquisition of strength and skill will remain a mystery unless Louis Wu returns.”

“I am grateful for it, for it certainly saved my life and that of my companions,” Lin said, “but I have noticed that they seem wary of me now. I hope that it does not bring trouble upon me.”

“If it does you can come with me,” Vala offered. “I could make good use of your abilities and I would pay you well.”

“I do not wish to leave my friends and family,” Lin said, “but if they continue to be wary of me I will take up your offer. I have heard only good things of you and I think you would be a good Watcher – I mean employer. I don’t know why I said the wrong word.”

“Because of ‘Farsight Trading’, perhaps? I try to be a good employer,” Vala said, “but I am not without flaws. I do not suffer fools gladly and I have a weakness for gambling.” She smiled. “I doubt if either would be relevant. If you do decide to enter my service I will be well pleased.”

“Speaking of pleasure…” Lin said, and then felt her cheeks growing hot. She faltered and stopped in mid-sentence.

Vala raised her eyebrows. “Yes?”

Lin bit her lower lip and resumed her speech. “I fought vampires with no mask, and controlled my feelings, but it was a struggle and I still feel the desire. After the attacks stopped my companions seemed to lose their excitement but it wasn’t the same for me. I felt it even more. Like, Slaying makes me hot.”

“Hot? Oh, a heat in your loins, you mean? And there were only Machine People in your group. As we had allies of other races we could get rid of our pent-up desires with rishathra,” Vala said, “but it was not the same for you.”

The Machine People women were not as fertile as the City Builders, who almost always conceived when they mated with men of their own People, but pregnancy was still a high risk for them and Lin did not want to fall pregnant. “That is what I mean,” she said. “I need a partner from amongst your allies. Could you, uh, recommend somebody?” She felt her cheeks flush again. “I haven’t actually done it with anyone before. I feel horny enough to rish with a Grass Giant but I’m not sure I’d be able to cope.”

“Horny?” Vala frowned. “The context suggests that it is a euphemism for ‘lustful’ but it is not one that I have heard before. I must be getting old and out of touch. Hmm. I’m afraid that the celebration after our victory over the vampires has somewhat drained all our allies’ men-folk. Even the Grass Giants are probably all rished out. You will have to contain yourself a little longer. After the next battle I am sure you will be able to find someone to oblige you.”

“Yeah, I guess,” Lin said. She frowned, surprised by her own word use, and tilted her head to one side. “I keep getting a strange feeling that somewhere there are vampires who aren’t like these ones. Or, if there aren’t, there should be. Vampires who can talk, and reason, and who could even be trusted to perform rishathra without biting. At least most of the time. That’s what I want right now. Rishathra with an intelligent vampire. Lots of rishathra in lots of different positions. Uh, there are lots of different positions, right?”

“Perhaps there are such vampires on Louis Wu’s world,” Vala said, “but there are none like that here. Ours are animals without speech. Such thoughts might get you killed.”

“No doubt you are right,” Lin said. She sighed. “Vampires must be Slayed not laid. I know this and I shall take your words to heart. Very well, then, let us continue on into the shadow to do battle once again. Vampires of the world beware!”

The End

Short Glossary of Ringworld Terms

• Falan = 75 Ringworld days, each of approximately 30 hours. 4 falans is just over 1 Earth year.
• Rishathra = Sex with a hominid of a different species. Done for recreation without risk of pregnancy or for purposes of diplomacy and sealing an inter-species deal.
• Cruisers = The wheeled vehicles of the Machine People, powered by internal combustion engines running on alcohol as fuel.
• The Arch = The Ring. To those on the surface it looks like a vast arch extending up from the horizon to spinward and anti-spinward. Most Ringworld dwellers are unaware that their world is a ring.

The End

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