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The Light-years beneath My Feetby Alan Dean Foster
Synopses & Reviews
Marcus Walker's khirach-tel souffle had fallen, and couldn't get up.
But it was trying to.
Writhing, peridot-hued filaments of specially sweetened bariile as active as they were tasty twisted and coiled like a nest of worms on speed as they struggled to re-form the compact yet airy loaf Walker had initially marshaled out of ingredients coughed up by the trio of synchronized synthesizers. Adrift in the center of the spherical preparator, suspended within its energized field and shielded from its harmful effects, he strove to maintain a semblance of recipe. All around him, the aromatic components of the special dessert he had engineered emerged from the synths to steadily merge and meld, freeze or bake. If everything came off as planned, the result ought to be a last course spectacular enough to impress the supervising Sessrimathe program that was serving as his mentor and judge.
Unfortunately, everything was not going as planned.
The radiant shower of rainbow-hued geljees that were supposed to execute an iridescent, chromatic englobement of the souffle were growing impatient. Like bees unable to agree on the location of a hive, they threatened to disperse into individual spheres and shatter themselves against the boundaries of the preparator in a spate of sugary seppuku. Though still coherent, his carefully woven whipped lavender finishing flame, frenetic with edible purple energy, was starting to dance fitfully just beyond his left hand. He could have controlled it better with the cooking wand in his right except that he needed to focus every bit of his attention and newly learned skills on taming the wild souffle itself. As the anchorpiece of the finished dessert, it could not be ignored, lest it descend swiftly into caloric anarchy.
Matters were not made easier by the knowledge that as he fought to control the culinary chaos swirling around him, his every move was being recorded and judged by the Sessrimathe program. If he failed to control the dessert, it would not be a crisis. But he had made so much progress, had come so far in his studies, that finishing the sweet he had designed from scratch had become for him a matter not just of nourishment, but of personal pride.
He had always given his all and had never quit on the football field. He would not quit in the kitchen--even if it was a kitchen the likes of which had never been imagined on Earth. Within it, automatic perceptors might suspend gravity and spot-control temperature, but it still required a sentient supervisor to direct the process. Doing so was a long way from engaging in the mundane machinations of the Chicago Commodities Exchange. But then, he was a long way from Chicago.
Not to mention Earth.
Following his rescue and that of his new friends from their avaricious abductors the Vilenjji, he had found himself untold light-years from home, surrounded and even coddled by the citizens of a highly advanced civilization, exposed to technological wonders any scientist on Earth would have given ten years of life to experience, with ever more promised to come.
No wonder he had speedily grown bored and homesick.
For a while following that rescue, the sophisticated world of their liberators the Sessrimathe had been endlessly fascinating. Months into their new freedom, it merely seemed endless. He came to realize that a good deal of that, and hi
Kidnapped by aliens to be sold as a pet in a distant part of the galaxy, young Chicago commodities broker Marcus Walker and his companion, George, a speech-enhanced dog, have managed to outwit their abductors, only to find themselves stranded billions of miles from Earth, with no way home. 15,000 first printing.
Successful Chicago commodities broker abducted by aliens
Not a headline from the National Enquirer, just Marcus Walker's own little Jerry Springer moment. He was indeed hustled aboardan alien Vilenjji starship, part of a cargo of primitive creatures bound for the civilized part of the galaxy, where they'll be sold . . . as pets. Fortunately, there was another Earthlingaboard, a scruffy dog named George who'd been speech-enhanced to increase his market value. Walker had spoken to plenty of dogs in his line of work but never to actual animals. He and George formed an immediatebond, giving new meaning to man's best friend.
The Light-Years Beneath My Feet finds Walker and George free at last, having managed, with some outside help, to outwittheir kidnappers. But now they are a million billion miles from Earth. Walker glories in the wonders of his rescuers' hi-tech world and the thrill of being humankind's first galactictraveler-until he remembers the only place he wants to be is home. To take his mind off the depressing fact that he hasn't the slightest idea where home is, never mind how to get there, the erstwhilecommodities broker becomes a chef.
Walker never imagined that whipping up delicacies for demanding alien palates would lead to a possible way home-or that the possible way home would involveswapping his easy-living adopted planet for an all-out, age-old war many parsecs away. But hey, it was all for a good cause, he has George and their two fellow escapees for company, and what else was there to do, besidesavoid Vilenjji? Plenty, as it turns out. . . .
From the Hardcover edition.
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