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Показать все книги автора/авторов: Asprin Robert, Nye Jody Lynn

«Class Dis-Mythed», Robert Asprin и др.


Chapter One

"It's nice to be wanted." J.JAMES

A high female voice ventured timidly, "Are you...Aahz?"

I looked up from a half-empty mug, and nearly spat out my mouthful of beer. Gazing down at me in the close confines of the Haggard Sheep Inn in the Bazaar on Deva were three Pervish females wearing trim, two-piece business suits and clutching briefcases tightly to their chests. My first impulse was to sidle away rapidly, keeping my back against the nearest wall. Next to dragons and Trolls, Pervect women are some of the most dangerous creatures in all the dimensions. I ought to know: I was a Pervect male. Our green, scaly skin covered impressively dense and strong muscles, and inside the skull between our batwing-shaped ears lay devious brains capable of following complex lines of analysis, always geared to our own advantage.

The females stared at me, yellow eyes watchful. I had long ago scoped out the exits in every public building within five miles' radius of our headquarters. The back door was fifteen steps behind me behind a curtain. Could I make it before they drew weapons or cast spells?

Guido, a Klahd and former associate with whom I was having a friendly drink, froze, then his hand inched toward the front of his suit coat where he concealed a miniature crossbow. His pinkish-tan skin paled to a buff color. He obviously shared my discomfort, but he wasn't going to let a business partner face a formidable foe alone.

"Who wants to know?" I growled at the three.

But the Pervish females weren't wearing expressions I associated with assassins or bill collectors. In fact, I realized that their suits were in fashionable pastels with short skirts and

their satchels were color-coordinated to go with the outfits. At first I thought they must be lawyers. Then I realized how young they were. They weren't professionals. They were school girls.

As if to confirm my analysis, one of them giggled.

"You must be Aahz. You look just like your picture."

The others tittered. I eyed them.

"Where did you see my picture?" I asked.

"Your mother showed it to us," the tallest one replied.

"My mother?"

"Your mother?" Guido asked curiously, leaning closer. I waved him back.

"What do you want?" I demanded.

"Well, Aahz...mandius?" the tall one began in a tentative manner.

"Just Aahz," I interrupted tersely. I was aware that all the patrons within five tables, mostly red-skinned Deveels, the natives of this dimension, had stopped drinking and had leaned as close as they could, the better to hear our exchange.

"Aahz, then. We need—This is kind of embarrassing—"

"Then sit down and lower your voices," I advised, beginning to lose patience. I glared at the eavesdroppers, who suddenly remembered they had better things to do.

I gestured at the bench on the other side of the table. With uneasy and distasteful glances, as if they had just picked up on their surroundings, the three females slid onto it.

"Yeah?" I urged them.

They dithered.

"You ask him, Jinetta," said the smallest.

"No, it was Pologne's idea," the tallest said.

"It was not!" the middle one exclaimed.

My species is not easily embarrassed, so whatever was eating these three had to be pretty bad. From birth we Pervects are raised to know we're a superior race throughout the dimensions. Few types are capable of supporting both magik and technology, and Perv has both. We're stronger, faster and smarter than most other dimension

travelers, or demons for short, so if that self-knowledge makes us a little arrogant, so be it. Of all the beings in the Bazaar, these three Pervects had come to consult one of their own.

I was becoming bored with the byplay. Cleared my throat meaningfully. The three stopped their bickering and turned to face me.

"Well, Aahz," the tall one began in a perky voice, interlacing her fingers on the table. "I just want you to know from the start that we're not beginners. We're all graduates of MIP."

I raised an eyebrow. The Magikal Institute of Perv was one of our finest seats of higher learning.

"Nice credentials, but so what?"

"Well—" the spokespervect glanced at her companions, "during our education, we took a lot of lab courses and had a couple of remote study opportunities, but really, none of our classes had much of a grounding in the real world."

"Stands to reason," I mused. "Professional academics, the kind who spend their whole lives in universities, don't have a lot of grounding in the real world. And they figure you're going to get plenty of practical experience once you get out. What's this got to do with me?"

"We need practical education," the most petite of the Pervects said. "Right away."

"We're looking for a course of intensive study," the tallest picked up the talking-stick again. "About six weeks. We consulted many, many people as to who the best possible tutor in any dimension would be to give us instruction, someone who would understand the really important issues of survival in the real world of magik. Only one name kept coming up again and again, including here in the Bazaar on Deva..."

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