“Come along with you?” Said Terence. “I take it back: you’re completely mad. One: I am not, repeat not, what you think I am; Two: Even if I were, what possible use could I be on a journey like this; and Three: what in this world or any other could I do against your Exile or anything else out there?”

Jeanette, standing in the shelter of her father’s crossed arms, approved of both his ferocity and the way he organized it. That was quintessential Dada. But still, deep inside her, something stirred, something very strong that said come with me. Adventure!

“What can you do. Dr. Ransom?” The extradimensional capybara turned from him to pick up a leather bag by the door. “The question rather is, what can’t you do--” he was rummaging around in it, and speaking into the bag: clearly, his art of the Grand Gesture needed some work.

“Ah--where are they--yes--with THESE!” He displayed two pairs of white gloves like the ones he wore. He handed one pair to Terence and one to Jeanette. “Go on, go on--put them on.”

Although they looked like plain white cloth they felt like the softest silkiest fur when she put them on, and they fit perfectly. After a moment they felt like nothing at all.

“If I’m supposed to feel something, I don’t, said Terence. He flexed his hands.

“Let me remind you of the fundamentals of funny animal history. Among the classic pantheon of FA’s--although I think I’ll call them toons now, Jeanette, thank you for introducing me to the term--it was these gloves that conferred untold power. Rabelais Rabbit, Donnerwetter Duck, Tall Eulenspiegel--they wore the gloves, they walked upright, could own property, drive vehicles, converse with non-FAs, while FAs like Wag the Dog, with none? A pet of the others.”

“In the present context, these are even more powerful: it is they and they alone that facilitate interuniversal travel; they allow you to talk any language you find necessary, and in the voice of talented character actors; and a lot, lot more!”

“So you say.” Terence looked down at the gloves with a frown.

The capybara was clearly agitated now, but Jeanette recognized it as an agitation her friends got into, and not a monster sort of agitation. It was very strange.

“Two: I sought you out because I believe your character--that you don’t remember--was only a supporting character, but a memorable one: D. Isaax Newton Randomfactor. Clumsy and absent minded, but always seeing to the heart of the matter, and providing weird gadgets. You are the first toon I have found who was not mad or dissolving into sparklies as I watched--and my heart leapt up. But you don’t remember a damn thing.”

“I’m sorry,” Terence said, and he was. “But I like it here.”

“Do you? Do you? I look around this room in this world you like--and all I see are doorways to others! Nothing but alien landscapes by word or brush or electron! Why, if you’re happy here?”

“Maybe it’s because I’ve found something important here,” and he hugged Jeanette to him and made her cry.

The capybara’s voice got small. “All right. You win.”

There was a plaintive note in Terence’s voice now. “It’s not that nothing in me stirs by what you’re saying. Who wouldn’t want to see the wonders of the universe--universes? But I can’t leave my daughter behind--and to take her along, with this Exile thing out there, and who knows what other dangers--I can’t and I won’t. Please understand.”

“I understand.” And there was such misery in that voice that she wanted to go and hug his big furry monstrous self. She didn’t, though. And there was a voice inside her, off in a corner and very young, saying Let’s go. Take me with you.

The doorbell rang, and all three of them jumped.

“Animal Control, Dr. Ransom! May we come in?”


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