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Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual
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Enlarge: Tallie scrambles for the oil: the Book is up to something

Tallie tried hard not to stare. What was wrong with the Book today?

"No, Captain Scarlet," it was saying, "I regret that your story of the wreck of the Indefensible is not one that meets my current needs."

Tallie had no doubt that she'd like to hear that story and she was just as sure that the Book would, too. Something was definitely going on here.

Captain Scarlet was doing her best to stay calm. "You've said that your story may not even be relevant," she argued. "I don't understand why you're being so particular." She took a deep breath - not for the first time in the past few minutes. "Fine," she agreed. "I haven't really wanted to trade this one... but there was a time in the Asteroid Belt when I figured out how to creep up on a freighter undetected, only to realize that its crew were telepaths. We ended up in a battle that lasted for four days even though not a single shot found its target." She waited. "I took their ship in the end," she added.

The Book's gears were smoking now. Tallie broke with tradition and ran for the oil can - something she tried never to do in front of visitors. This was incredible! She couldn't wait to hear that one!

"No...." the Book said. Tallie could hear its gears grinding like mad. She sprayed oil over everything she could see... and realized that the Book was once more turning Captain Scarlet down.

"I'm afraid that story, as interesting as it may be, is not one that I can use at this time."

It seemed to Tallie that all three of them were shocked by what was happening.

"However," the Book continued, "in extreme cases I am able to offer an unusual arrangement. If a client is unable to provide a story, I can send the client back out into the city and I will accept, in trade, whatever story occurs at that time."

The Clockwork Book and the pirate captain stared each other down. "Agreed," said Bonnie Scarle

Reader Comments
There are 2 reader comments on this page.
rainycity1 says:
November 24th, 2011 at 2:13 pm

hmmmm… looks like conflicting imperatives…

Bradley W. Schenck says:
November 24th, 2011 at 2:24 pm

Of course that can be difficult for anybody; but how much harder for the Book? He wasn’t really built to turn down stories.

For my part, what I most enjoy here is that the Book is familiar with the language of rejection notices. So he knows how to do what he needs to do; it’s just that he’s pushing himself to the limits of what his mechanism can handle.

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