It had been only four days since we had
lost track of the Pervect Ten, but they hadn't wasted a moment. It had not simply been the man in
the carriage wearing dark glasses. Everybody we could see, in every direction, was wearing colored
spectacles exactly like the pair I now had in my belt pouch. The reason the Scammies crowded one
another so rudely on the sidewalks was that none of them was paying attention to where he or she
was going. They bumped into vehicles, walls and one another, but no one seemed to get angry or
upset. It was eerie. I had never seen traffic accidents resolved without swearing
"They all seem to be very happy," Bunny
"They are under a spell," Zol
confirmed, his voice rising with concern. "Their minds are under the control of the glasses. Tell
them, Master Skeeve! Take your case to the common Scammie. Help them! Only the truth can save them
now! Speak to them and set them free!"
galvanized me into action. I saw before me another world on the brink of falling under the
influence of the Pervect Ten. We had been too slow to stop the infiltration, but those demons
wouldn't keep the Scammies under their thumb, not if I could help it. I ran to the top of the
stairs, spread out my arms and cried out to the people of
"Take off your glasses!" I shouted.
"They're part of a plot by a group of females from Perv who want to enslave your entire dimension.
They're enchanting you! They are poisoning your
My voice died away. I looked around me
for the thousands of eager, raised faces, grateful that someone had come to liberate them from
their involuntary thralldom.
The trot-trot of
rat-horse feet, the rumble of carriage wheels, the trudge-trudge-trudge of thousands of feet did
not come to a halt. In fact, no one paused for a moment. I couldn't believe it. Nobody understood
what kind of danger they were in! I gawked at the resounding wave of apathy that greeted my
announcement. Didn't they care?
initiative, Master Skeeve," Zol urged me. "Use that Klahdish
That steeled my resolve. What I
needed was an authority, an important citizen, to set an example by casting off the Pervect Ten's
device. I cast around me.
There was the very
person: coming out of the big building at the top of the peak was a stout, prosperous male with a
heavily embroidered coat over his robe. He wore the glasses, too, but he was being led by the hands
by a couple of muscular young Scammies whose eyes were uncovered. Their protuberant brown orbs
turned toward me as I dashed up to the male they were
"He's being brainwashed!" I
exclaimed. "Make him take off the glasses. He'll see reality, not
"It's just jealous," the escort on the
left sniffed to the other, pointing its trunk in my direction. "It hasn't got
"A have-not," snickered the escort on the
right. "Sad, really. He'll never know how great they
"Probably not," agreed his companion. The
male in the middle said nothing. His mouth gaped open, and drool collected in the
I should have known Scammies would think
that anything worth having was worth bragging about. I tried again. "Look at him. Help him. His
mind is under its control. It could happen to
"I hope so," shrugged the escort on the
right. "I've started saving up for my pair. Senior Domari says he loves them so much he's never
taking them off."
They didn't understand. I
would have to take matters into my own hands. I reached for the pair of pink-framed glasses perched
on the male's snout. The escort on the left reached for my throat with a huge hand. The little
round mouth bristled with sharp teeth. He lunged for me. I dodged back. If they were going to play
rough, I was more than a match for them. At a safe distance, I used the reverse of my levitation
spell to send him flying backwards. The other escort let go of his employer's arm and came hurtling
at me, only to go hurtling in the opposite direction as I threw a chunk of power into his chest.
With a flick of magik I snatched the glasses off the face of the portly Scammie. He let out a
bellow, and clutched his eyes.
"Where did they
go? Give them back!"
I swept my hand downward,
and the spectacles dashed to the ground. The lenses splintered into a hundred pieces. "You're
free!" I exclaimed. "Reclaim your mind!"
the stout male trumpeted, focusing his protruding eyes on me. "Those cost me twenty gold pieces!
How dare you! This is an outrage!"
liberation!" I explained. Twenty gold pieces! The Pervects were making the victims pay for their
own conquest? That was a wrinkle even Aahz would have had trouble stomaching. "Your minds were
being clouded by evil sorcery. You can all thank me later." I turned to the next person feeling her
way blindly down the stairs while wearing Pervect Ten spectacles. With a spark of power I whisked
the device off her nose and hurled it down. She shrieked as she was set free, possibly for the
first time in days. One after another I picked the Ten's malevolent glasses off their victims and
destroyed them. The vacant looks on their faces changed to more normal expressions, such as
surprise and enlightenment. Another three pairs went flying past me, off a slender female hauling a
couple of youngsters by the hands. The children began to cry. I turned to offer a thumb's up to my
companions, standing at the side of the stairs. Tananda grinned back at me. She and Zol were
getting into the act, helping me break the people out of the demons'
"Thank you?" demanded the first
Scammie I had helped, his trunk rampant with fury. He held up his fists. "Thank you? You're
mad! Guards! Guards! Arrest this
At the cry, the officer directing traffic
turned his face up towards us. Throwing both hands up magnificently to halt the flow of vehicles,
he stalked off his pedestal and started up the stairs in the direction of the shouting Scammie. It
must take time until the brainwashing began to wear off. The portly male still carried on as if he
was angry that the stream of nonsense the Pervects' device fed him had been halted. It looked as if
we had better clear out of the immediate area until all of them were in their right mind again. I
had been the target of mobs before. I knew I didn't want to have that experience
"Come on," I gestured to my friends.
Gleep came charging through the crowd of Scammies converging on me, bowling half of them over and
sending them rolling down the stairs. Tananda leaped down to help me clear a way for Zol and
"Get us out of here, Gleep!" I yelled. I
released the illusion masking his natural aroma. At the sudden wave of lung-constricting smell,
Scammies threw themselves out of his path, cannoning into one another, shrieking in
"Gleep!" my pet yodeled, turning his nose
We plunged down the steps in his wake,
stripping spectacles off Scammies as we went. To my surprise mild-mannered Zol threw himself into
the liberation effort with gusto. With a wave of his hands the little gray man flipped glasses off
dozens of people at a time. Tananda, too, lent her magikal abilities to the cause. Bunny just held
tight to Bytina and did her best to stay with
The crowd behind us grew as we ran. What had
gone wrong? I started to wonder if just removing the spectacles was enough to break the hypnotic
trance the Pervect Ten had set on their victims. They were still shouting at us and shaking their
fists long after I would have thought the impact would have begun to wear
"After them!" shouted the stout
"They broke my
"They broke my children's! What will
I sprinted down the middle of the main
street. Rat-horses reared and gnashed their big front teeth as I swung under their noses. Scammies
operating pedal-driven vehicles halted and swore. People not wearing the Pervect goggles stopped to
point and stare. We were definitely attracting too much
I looked around for a place to duck
into so I could operate the D hopper, but every inch of the street was filled with shouting, angry
people. I glanced over my shoulder. Zol, for all that he stood a foot shorter than me, managed to
stay just behind me, but Bunny was getting lost in the crowd. I'd lost sight of Tananda. She could
dimension-hop on her own with a chant and a wiggle, so I didn't have to worry about her, but my
assistant was not a magician. I had to get back to
I saw her hand go up before it was blotted
out by a mass of Scammies bearing down on
"Gleep!" I called. "Go get Bunny! Protect
"Gleep!" my pet responded. He stopped
clearing the way ahead for me, looped around in his length, which caused several of the pursuers to
trip on him, and came galloping directly back toward me. I threw up my hands to halt
"No, Gleep!" I cried, just before we
"Now, now, now, what's all this,
When I opened my eyes, everything was in
a haze. As my vision cleared I found myself staring at the protuberant brown eyes of a Scammie
police officer whose face was only inches from my nose. He reached for my arm. I started to pull it
away, then realized that the ground was preventing my elbow from moving back. I was lying down. How
had that happened?
It all came back to me as the
roar of furious voices rolled over my ears again. Gleep, in his zeal to take the shortest path to
Bunny and carry out my instructions, had crashed into me and knocked me flat. I didn't know if the
bruises I felt on my chest were his footprints, or those of some of the Scammies standing around
me, one of whose feet was still planted across my neck. I had probably been knocked unconscious
when I hit my head on the ground. How long ago had that
I gasped for breath. The person whose
boot was impeding my airway removed it, and the policeman hauled me to my feet. His trunklike nose
twitched. I sniffed, too. I must have let the nasal illusion slip. In the mélange of
vanilla-orange I smelled like a pigpen by comparison. It was too late to disguise my normal scent.
Half the Scammies caught my smell and edged away from me, or pinched their big nostrils shut with
their fingers. The policeman's eyes watered, but he was made of a better mettle than his
countrymen. He kept my arm clamped in his hand, and felt my face. When his fingers met my ordinary,
and very small (by comparison) nose, his brow ridges went
"Who are you, and what are you?" he
I tried to choke out my name, but only
a squeak came out, thanks to both having the air knocked out of me and the foot in the throat. "I'm
Sk-" I gasped.
"All right, make way!" Another
police officer came bustling up. The first one held out a
"Magik dispeller," he demanded. The second
officer slapped a wand into his hand. The first officer pushed a small stud on the handle and
leveled it at me. I saw the faces of the crowd change as my disguise was stripped from
"A Klahd," the officer sniffed in disgust.
"What do you think you're doing here?"
is Skeeve," I croaked. "I'm here to save
"Crazy, too," the second officer
"No, really!" I protested. "You're all
"Save us, eh?" the officer in charge
queried. "Is that why you stood on the courthouse steps screaming like a fool? If you have evidence
that Scamaroni is in some kind of peril why didn't you go to our government and make your
" I was starting to wonder that
myself. I couldn't tell him that Zol Icty had told me to. I was beginning to think it had been a
bad idea after all. But I couldn't make this officer think I was a bigger twit than he already did.
I eyed him. "If you can ask a question like that, you've never tried to change anything by getting
the government to help," I pointed out.
looked as though Officer Two agreed with me privately, but the Officer One was not amused. His
voice was even and calm, as though he was talking to a very small child. "So tell me why you caused
"The glasses," I began, feeling a
little foolish. "They're part of a big
"The people who made them want to take
over your dimension."The brow ridges went up again. "And you have proof of
"You have to take me seriously," I
insisted. I gestured at the angry people around me. Tananda, Zol and Bunny were nowhere in sight. I
hoped that they had jumped back to Wuh or Klah and weren't going through an interrogation like this
somewhere out of sight. "Really. You'll lose control of your own lives! I'm a magician, a great
magician. I've seen it happen on another dimension. I don't want it to happen to
"They had these
but it's the same ten
Pervects. They've conquered one world, and yours is
"Uh-huh," the officer said, still in the
same patient voice. He exchanged a look with the other officer, who tapped his chin with a
forefinger. It must be the local gesture for "nut case." I started to
And I had mountains of treasure!
Gold! Jewels! Silver! But I used that cheap stuff only to scratch my back," added the female
Scammie, escorted into our little circle by a third policeman, "until that imbecile
destroyed my storytelling goggles, and I got yanked out of my beautiful
"You see?" I stated, indicating the
female. "It's clouding your minds."
the female asked, her trunk rampant with disapproval. "I was loving
"But what about your productivity?" I said,
beginning to feel desperate. They didn't understand. "What about your normal
"This is much more interesting than my
life," the woman told me impatiently. "I have five children. You think I can't use a little
"The makers of these things want to
control you, maybe bleed you dry," I
"Twenty gold pieces is steep," the
woman admitted, "but it's worth it! I've wandered in beautiful places, free as a
"No, it won't stop there," I
warned, looking about at all the hostile faces in the circle. "They'll take over your dimension
while you're not looking."
A male Scammie poked
me in the stomach. "So what? If we're happy, how bad could that
The first officer put his free hand on his
hip. "Have you ever even tried these things
"No," I admitted. "But I know what
they can do
"Well, here." He plucked the
goggles off one of the bystanders. The owner's eyes flew wide in alarm, but calmed down when he saw
a law officer holding them. He started to put them on my
"No!" I protested, throwing up my hands.
"They'll enchant me!" The cop shrugged and handed them back. The owner went to put them back on. I
couldn't let him be dragged back into the spell. I raised my hands and made a twisting motion. The
owner cried out in alarm.
"You'll thank me
later," I tried to say, as he went for my throat. All three police officers pulled him back. He
shook his fist over their
you vandal!" he yelled, his
nose-trunk erect in outrage. "Aargh! That's the last time I help the
"Look," I said, desperately, "You don't
know what they're doing to you. Today it seems like you're just enjoying harmless fantasies, but
before you know it you'll be their slaves. I'll reimburse everyone for their glasses-wholesale
cost," I amended hastily. If I'd learned anything from Aahz, it was never pay the full price for
replacement of an item. If I had ever agreed to give anyone the retail value of an item I had
broken Aahz would have rolled his eyes right around inside his head. "They're harming you. Trust
The more I protested, the more faces I saw
"Maybe he's on to
something," a narrow-faced woman mused, tilting her head. "I never considered it more than a
but you never know what extra spells might be tucked in there. I've heard all kinds of
things happen to people. You read about it in the news all the
"Hah," a young male sneered. "He's just
jealous that he doesn't have his own goggles. Can't afford to buy one for yourself,
"I bet he works for a rival toymaker,"
an elderly female shrilled. "He doesn't like theirs, but we should buy yours, isn't that right,
"No, it's not like that at
The first policeman held up his hands.
"All right, all right, calm down. we'll get to the bottom of this. we'll have the goggles inspected
to make sure they don't cause any harm to any of you. In the meantime, give your names to Officer
Koblinz, and we'll notify you when we've finished our investigation. Move along! Move along! Clear
The Scammies, grumbling, obeyed the
first policeman's commands. Officer Two, Koblinz, took a pad of paper out of his pocket. Names
magikally limned themselves down the index. He nodded and put it
"You can better believe we're going to get
to the bottom of this," he promised.
relief," I breathed. Very quickly traffic returned to normal, and the complainants departed. "Well,
thanks a lot." I spotted an alley where I could retrieve the D-hopper out of my boot in private,
and started towards it.
"And where do you think
you're going?" Officer One asked, grabbing me by the back of my collar. I struggled to pry myself
loose, even using a flick of power, but he had a good grip on
"I've got to get back to my work," I told
him. "I told you, those Pervects have a grip on another helpless
"You're not going
Officer One looked at me as though I was
an idiot. "You're still under arrest for destroying personal
"But, gee, I said I'd pay for them,"
"Nothing doing," he said, hauling
me by my collar down the sidewalk to a waiting rat-horse cart. "Restitution will be part of the
sentence. You're still being held for assault on sixty or eighty persons, destruction of property,
causing a nuisance on the public highway with that sick rorse of yours, creating an
"A what?" I
The officer sighed, as if he had never
met such a stupid being in his life. "Causing a riot, if you prefer it like that. The judge is
really going to throw the book at you."
the usual penalty for causing an affray?" I
"Oh, thirty or forty days. But with all
the other charges added on you're likely going to spend the rest of your life in
"Perhaps I could talk to the judge," I
offered, stumbling as I climbed into the cart. "Arrange a payment schedule, and apologize to the
Scammies I have offended?"
"I doubt it," Officer
One said, gesturing his companions to whip up his animal. "Senior Domari was the first person you