was thick and leathery and twisted into horns and spines and protrusions at odd places upon their bodies. But they were very strong, and e good workers. Wo ordered them about in a musical tongue that Kress has never heard before.

In a day it was done. They moved his piranha tank to the center of his spacious living room, arranged couches on either side of it for better viewing, scrubbed it clean, and filled it two thirds of the way up with sand and rock. Then they installed a special lighting system, both to provide the dim red illumination the sandkings preferred and to project holographic images s into the tank. On top they mounted a sturdy plastic cover, with a feeder mechanism built in. w 'This way you can feed your sandkings without removing the top of the tank,' Wo explained.

'You would not want to take any chances on the mobiles escaping.'

The cover also included climate-control devices, to condense just the right amount of moisture from the air. 'You want it dry, but not too dry,' Wo said.

Finally one of the four-armed workers climbed into the tank and dug deep pits in the four corners. One of his companions handed the dormant maws over to him, removing them, one by one, from their frosted cryonic traveling cases.

They were nothing to look at. Kress decided they resembled nothing so much as mottled, half-spoiled chunks of raw meat. Each with a mouth.

The alien buried them, one in each corner of the tank. Then the work party sealed it all up and took their leave.

'The heat will bring the maws out of dormancy,' Wo said. 'In less than a week mobiles will begin to hatch and burrow up to the surface. Be certain to give them plenty of food. They will need all their strength until they are well established. I would estimate that you will have castles rising in about three weeks.'

'And my face? When will they carve my face?'

'Turn on the hologram after about a month,' she advised him, 'and be patient. If you have any questions, please call. Wo and Shade are at your service.' She bowed and left.

Kress wandered back to the tank and lit a joy stick. The desert was still and empty. He

drummed his fingers impatiently against the

plastic and frowned. t

On the fourth day Kress thought he glimpsed

motion beneath the sand-subtle subterranean

stirrings. s

On the fifth day he saw his first mobile, a

lone white.

On the sixth day he counted a dozen of them,

whites and reds and blacks. The oranges were -K

tardy. He cycled through a bowl of half

decayed table scraps. The mobiles sensed it at

once, rushed to it, and began to drag pieces .?

back to their respective corners. Each color

group was highly organized. They did not fight.

Kress was a bit disappointed, but he decided to

give them time.

The oranges made their appearance on the eighth day. By then the other sandkings had` begun carrying small stones and erecting crude fortifications. They still did not war. At the G moment they were only half the size of those he had seen at Wo and Shade's, but Kress thought they were growing rapidly.

The castles began to rise midway through the second week. Organized battalions of mobiles dragged heavy chunks of sandstone and granite back to their corners, where other mobiles were pushing sand into place with mandibles and tendrils. Kress had purchased a pair of magnifying goggles so that he could watch them work wherever they might go in the tank. He wandered around and around the tall plastic walls, observing. It was fascinating.


The castles were a bit plainer than Kress would have liked, but he had an idea about that. The next day he cycled through some obsidian and flakes of colored glass along with the food. Within hours they had been incorporated into the castle walls.

The black castle was the first completed, followed by the white and red fortresses. The oranges were last, as usual. Kress took his meals into the living room and ate, seated on the couch so he could watch. He expected the first war to break out any hour now.

He was disappointed. Days passed, the castles grew taller and more grand, and Kress seldom left the tank except to attend to his sanitary needs and to answer critical business calls. But the sandkings did not war. He was getting upset.

Finally he stopped feeding them.

Two days after the table scraps had ceased to fall from their desert sky, four black mobiles surrounded an orange and dragged it back to their maw. They maimed it first, ripping off its mandibles and antennae and limbs, and carried it through the shadowed main gate of their miniature castle. It never emerged. Within an hour more than forty orange mobile marched across the sand and attacked the blacks' corner. They were outnumbered by the blacks that came rushing up from the depths. When the fighting was over, the attackers had been slaughtered. The dead and dying were taken down to feed the black maw.

Kress, delighted, congratulated himself on his genius.

When he put food into the tank the following day, a three-cornered battle broke out over its possession. The whites were the big winners.

After that, war followed war.

Almost a month to the day after Jala Wo had delivered the sandkings, Kress turned on the holographic projector, and his face materialized in the tank. It turned, slowly, around and around, so that his gaze fell on all four castles equally. Kress thought it rather a good likeness; it had his impish grin, wide mouth, full cheeks. His blue eyes sparkled, his gray hair was carefully arrayed in a fashionable sidesweep, his eyebrows were thin and sophisticated.

Soon enough the sandkings set to work. Kress fed them lavishly while his image beamed down at them from the sky. Temporarily the wars stopped. All activity was directed toward worship.

His face merged on the castle walls.

At first all four carvings looked alike to him, but as the work continued and Kress studied the reproductions, he

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