ISTP Vigilante

"I work alone."

  • Charm: Mysterious
  • Adaptability: Cockroach
  • Planning: Needs development
  • Survival Preparations: Needs development
  • Wealth: Whatever’s in this dead guy’s pockets
  • Weapons Skill: Lethal
  • Intelligence: Shrewd
  • Warm Fuzzies: Like ice, but colder
  • Leadership: What part of "alone" don't you understand?

In the Bunker

After the bombs drop, you will spend a year crouched in a bunker, waiting for the nuclear winter to end.  Possibly this bunker will belong to an ESFJ Bunkerdragon, your spouse, who will stuff you with home-baked cookies.  But possibly you will spend a year alone in your basement having candlelight dinners with your loyal goldfish.

Either way, it will be time well spent.  You will grow closer to your spouse or your fish than you ever imagined.  This time spent focusing on your relationships will not be wasted, since severe trials are inbound.  Those of you without a spouse or fish will also spend the time productively—you will play video games that will hone your skills until you develop an almost preternatural ability to kill monsters. 

Twelve months later, you can safely emerge from the bunker.  Good thing, because by this time your spouse will have developed a worrisome facial tic.  Perhaps you shouldn't have played all those violent video games in front of them, but at least it has helped prepare them for the real world.  As for your goldfish, you have invested it with feelings, intelligence, and the ability to speak. 

“You only love me for the Tetramin!” you scream.  “If I didn’t feed you, you would leave me here all alone!”

“Nonsense, I’m stuck in this bowl,” the goldfish responds reasonably.  “I couldn’t leave you if I wanted to.”

“It’s a lie!  You’re mutating into a lungfish!  Confess!”

“That’s absurd.  You’re losing your mind.”

You cackle knowingly.  “That’s what you’d like me to believe, wouldn’t you?  But I know the truth.  You’re a sick, sick fish.”

“Let’s caaaalm down,” the goldfish says.  “Why don’t you play some video games?”

Anyway, now that you’ve reached the surface it’s time to put your gaming skillz to work.  Your loyal goldfish will have crawled off by this time, the traitor, so it’s just you against the world.  As for your spouse, a relaxing vacation in the form of a transcontinental journey across Asia is just the cure they need for that facial tic. 

Spelunking

After smashing the boards off the front of your white house and emerging from the basement after six months of confinement, most ISTPs will be reluctant to go underground ever again.  However, at least one disturbed, masochistic individual will actually like it and take up spelunking as a hobby.  They will live in a cave and become obsessed with the local mutant fauna, namely dragonbats, which they will adopt as a motif in all their armor and weaponry.  Encouraged by the undeniable coolness of this human wreck, other ISTPs will eventually follow suit and cave exploration will become all the rage.  But this won’t be for 10,000 years, because it will take that long for the horror of twelve months of being stuck in a basement to be purged from the collective unconscious of the ISTP populace.

One day, while exploring the deeper levels of a cave, where you are killing mutant pig-men for their precious metals, you will find a strange little door in the side of the rock.  There is peculiar writing on it from the time of the Ancients.  With a little effort you jimmy the lock and go in. 

You find yourself standing on a narrow catwalk overlooking a sprawling subterranean city.  Magnificent buildings are stacked up the cavern walls.  You gaze in wonder at ornate cupolas encrusted with gold and gems, all lit up by a glowing yellow-orange lake covered with a flotilla of boats.  You have found Cavfoor, the lost city of the Guardians.

Following the catwalk as it wends its way about the cavern, you walk up and down until you arrive in the city proper.  (Actually, you are merely in the suburbs, but you think it is the city.)  There are little mushroom gardens here with signs everywhere reminding people to stay off the fungus.  There are also signs instructing residents to pick up their trash, respect the speed limit, and brake for oorrg.   Pausing by one of the tidy golden houses, you light a cigarette and carelessly discard the used match on a manicured patch of fungus. 

Unbeknownst to you, littering is a crime in Cavfoor.  With a screech of outrage a giant policebat ridden by an ISTJ Sentinel swoops down and snatches you up into the sky. 

You are taken before the Great Committee.  The ESTJ Underlord in charge—a pale creature with huge, sunken black eyes—demands to know why you have come.  You explain that you simply wanted to enjoy some looting and mutant hunting.  The ESTJ wants to know if you have a permit.  You have no idea what he is talking about.  He orders you thrown into prison until he decides how you should be punished for attempted theft, attempted poaching, and littering. 

Though immaculate and perfectly maintained, the dungeon nevertheless presents a gloomy atmosphere.  A carefully dusted skeleton lies in the corner with a little broom and dustpan resting suggestively in its hand.  Black rats scurry on their wheel in the cage in the corner.  The sole illumination is provided by a blazing torch in the hallway, which shines on a plaque that admonishes you to consider how irresponsible you have been.  (You can’t read, but if you could read, that’s what it would say.)

On the bright side, your guards are all ESFJ Bunkerdragons belonging to the Nurturing/Service Provider caste.  You have truly hit the matrimonial jackpot, assuming that you can get over the giant black eyes and the deathly pale skin.  And the vampirism.  Many ESFJs are psychically bonded to dragonbats; you are advised to select one that is not driven mad by the smell of fresh blood.

“You certainly have been naughty,” says your ESFJ guard as she comes in with your midday snack, a glass of milk and a plate of warm chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the oven.  “Hunting without a permit is an awful thing to do.  And littering, my!  You should do your part to keep the cavern clean.  Everyone has to pitch in if we want to survive.”

“You have lovely eyes,” you say, looking dark and mysterious.  Her pale skin takes on a delicate pinkish cast.  She looks quickly at the ground, and a curl of her auburn hair falls across her face.  A small hand with neat pink fingernails brushes it back behind her burning ear.

“Prisoners aren’t supposed to fraternize with guards,” the ESFJ says at last.  “It’s against the Sacred Operation Procedures Manual Section 3, subsection 2.5, paragraph—”

“I’ve don’t think I’ve ever had more delicious cookies,” you say.  “Did you bake these yourself?”

“Uh—yes.  It’s an ancient family recipe passed down for generations.”

“Will I see you again at supper?”

“No,” she says, shaking her head.  “Because after you are done with your last meal, you will fight the deadly goorilloids in the arena and die a horrible death.”

As an ISTP, it is your purpose in life to slay monsters.  In fact, as they lead you in chains to the arena, you find you are almost eager for the chance to get out of the boring dungeon and fight things to the death.  Hidden in your pocket is the glass cup which your milk came in. 

Without ceremony, you are thrown into the sandy expanse of the ring.  On the other side of the arena, straining at their chains, are three pale, hairy beasts that look like underevolved cave trolls with one big eye apiece. 

The ESTJ Underlord watches from one of the booths.  He is adorned with gold and silver, and wears a purple robe that makes him look like one of the ancient ENTJ Warlords of legend.  Come to think of it, those ENTJ Warlords really seemed to enjoy hunting Artisans.  It has never occurred to you to wonder why. 

Standing, the ESTJ addresses the crowd.  “The man you see before you is a thief, a poacher, and a litterbug.  He scorns the Manual, blasphemes Byuros and Crassia, and defiles the cavern.”

A rumble of outrage passes through the crowd.  “Kill him, kill him, kill him!”

“But that is not all,” the ESTJ continues, raising his powerful voice to be heard over the chanting.  “He is not of the Cavern.  He is from the sur-fas.”

From the crowd’s reaction, this appears to be a bad thing.  Men gnash their teeth; women clutch their babies; children cry in their mother’s arms. 

“Release the goorilloids!” someone cries, and the crowd takes it up as a chant.  “Release them!  Release them!  Release them!”

Defiantly you smash the glass on the ground and pick up the biggest shard, wrapping it in a piece of cloth torn off from your shirt.  The ESTJ Underlord slashes his hand down in a signal. 

The chains are loosed.  With a howl the goorilloids lurch forward, slavering yellow fangs bared.  You crouch, the shard of glass held out before you.

The biggest goorilloid thrusts his gaping jaws at your outstretched arm.  You plunge your makeshift knife through his eye, then leap aside.  He screams in fury and blindly reaches for where you were standing, but his groping hands find only his fellow goorilloid.  He seizes upon his companion and they begin to tear each other apart. 

The last goorilloid closes cautiously on you, its lips curled in a grotesque snarl. 

Suddenly the beast grabs a stone from the ground and hurls it at your head.  Taken by surprise, you do not duck in time and the projectile strikes you dead in the forehead.  You stumble backwards to the ground, stunned.  The beast roars and beats its chest, then rises up onto two legs and advances towards you, its tongue already licking at its black lips. 

With a last desperate effort, you raise your arm and hurl your shard at its throat.  The glass plunges in like a dagger.  A gurgling howl of rage bubbles from the creature’s throat as it finds itself choking on its own blood.  You try to crawl away as the goorilloid claws at the shard lodged in its jugular vein. 

But at the sight of your escape, the beast forgets the shard.  Maddened by the beginnings of death agony, it gallops towards you.  You scrabble away, but not fast enough.  Mighty arms close around your shoulders and gleaming fangs stretch towards your throat.  Gasping in pain, you seize the end of the bloody shard still lodged in the creature's neck and force it back through the spinal column.

Then it is over.  The paralyzed goorilloid falls, coughing its last, liquid breath.  You stagger to your feet and draw the shard from your dead foe, ready to face your next opponent.  But the other two goorilloids lie in the sand in pools of their own steaming blood. 

The crowd convulses in a roar—whether approval or hate, you cannot say.  Lights swim around you.  You crumple to the sand. 

When you come to your senses, you are back in your cell.  The ESFJ is tenderly binding the wound on your forehead.  Since she is not drinking your blood, she is probably not a vampire. 

“No one has ever survived the goorilloids,” she whispers.  “You are very brave.”

“The thought of seeing you again gave me strength,” you reply. 

The next day you fight the shargoths.  Then the kraghouls.  Then the saurmongers and the leopard rats and shriekowls.  Always the ESFJ is there to nurse you back to health and encourage you to keep going.  Little by little your relationship with your lovely guard begins to diverge from the ideal model described in the Sacred Operating Procedures Manual.  You feel an emotion stirring that you don’t feel very often.

At last, she bursts weeping into your cell.  You take her into your arms and tenderly press a kiss upon her warm, soft lips.

“What is it?” you ask. 

“I cannot bear it anymore.  Tomorrow you are to be bound in red tape and sacrificed to Byuros and Crassia, the god and goddess of Law and Order.  Tonight you must escape.  Come, come quickly!”

That very night she leads you out of the dungeon.  You steal through the streets, then up the narrow catwalk to the little door. 

“Come with me,” you plead.

“No my love,” she whispers, cupping your face in her hands.  “I must stay and do my duty.  Know always that I love you, and will never love anyone besides you.”

You exchange one last, lingering kiss, and then you pass through the little door.  The lock snicks shut behind you. 

You are alive. 

Small Towns With Problems

As an ISTP, one of your duties is to solve the problems of small towns that have been hard hit by the end of the world.  In a typical scenario, you will be wandering around, doing your thing, when you will chance upon a quaint village with an old man standing near the edge of town, feebly digging in the dry soil. 

“Hello, old man,” you say.  “Why are you digging a hole on such a hot day?”

“I must dig a well, so that we can have water again,” he mumbles half to himself. 

“Where’d the water go?” you inquire, though you are already fairly certain that some selfish water baron and his gang of hired thugs are hoarding the only uncontaminated ground water around and making the villagers pay through the nose for it. 

“A dirty crook and his gang of thugs took over the springs and are making us pay through the nose for every drop,” the old man says angrily. 

“Ah yes,” you say.  “Which direction would I find them in?”

After killing them all in justifiable self defense, you have a drink at the local canteen and then head off.  All that adulation gets old after awhile. 

Another problem you will encounter is that a band of marauders will periodically ravage a small defenseless town.  As an ISTP, it naturally falls to you to kill the marauders and free the town from their reign of terror. 

You walk up to the edge of town and see a child shooting a crudely drawn human target with a pop gun. 

“What are you doing?” you ask, amused by his play. 

“I am practicing to kill the marauders who are attacking our poor town,” the child will say.  “Now go away, we don’t want any help from you ISTPs.” 

Stunned, you will inquire why not—it is, after all, the second item in your job description. 

“The last time you came you used up all our bandwidth, and instead of helping us, you gave us a huge paper with instructions for how to build a fortification around the town and it didn’t work out at all.”  The child sticks out his tongue at you and runs away.

“Oh,” you say.  Apparently a wandering INTP Wizard has been here before you. 

Well, there’s nothing to do but clean up the mess he left behind.  You practice your bullet hole art on the ruffians and head back to town for a drink.  The townspeople won’t be grateful for your efforts this time around, but at least you’ll have done a little to restore your ruined reputation.  Cursing the INTPs and their overly complicated solutions to simple problems, you continue on your way.

And so it goes.  The ISTP will remain the same until the end of everything: a lone specter, a forgotten figure, a shadow fading into the sunset.

The Guardians Strike Back

Or that’s the way it’s supposed to work.  The reality of the matter is that your adventure in Cavfoor is about to catch up to you.  After you got back, you naturally had to explain to your fellow Artisans where you got all those new scars from.  Excited by your unexaggerated descriptions of SJ riches, SPs will flood Cavfoor.  The ESTJ Underlord will try futilely to get rid of the newcomers, to no avail.  At last, deciding that the best defense is a good offense, he will tunnel up to the surface and launch an invasion.  You kicked the ants’ nest.  Now the ants are angry. 

You and all the other Artisans will be very surprised when the Guardians emerge.  There you were, leading your normal lives, hunting mutants, having shoot outs, and looting things, when suddenly an advanced civilization appears out of nowhere and starts erasing your Artisan civilization from the map.  You are hunted from above by dragonbats and from below by monstrous wyrms. 

Not that you mind.  It’s fun to be hunted by cool new monsters.  The Guardian invasion is the most exciting thing that has happened to Artisankind in the last thousand years.

What is a little more unnerving is the Guardian army itself.  Beside their host of psychically bonded subterranean monsters, the SJs have an organized army of professional soldiers.  They all wear identical uniforms and march together like one human machine.  Their discipline is unbelievable; their courage unbreakable.  They are equipped with every necessity (you would call them “luxuries”) and all their equipment is perfectly maintained.  The Guardians seem like an unstoppable tide pouring across the land. 

After awhile though, the SP tribes will band together into a unified resistance.  Led by a bold ESTP leader, the coalition will at last give the Guardians a run for their money.  For several years, war will rage across the land as Artisans pit their skillful adaptability against the planful discipline of the Guardians.  You will have great victories and terrible defeats.  The Guardians will eventually conquer all the land in the immediate vicinity of Cavfoor, but beyond that Artisankind still holds sway. 

Seeing that victory will not be won cheaply, the ESTJ Underlord grudgingly begins to explore more diplomatic options for dealing with you.  His new philosophy is, “If you can’t beat them, corrupt them.”

The Guardians’ treasure is not limited to gold and gems.  They also possess unheard of things like refined sugar, scented body lotion, and non-stick frying pans.  Since the only products produced by the Artisan economy are alcohol, cigarettes and ammunition, these new goods will exert a powerful influence upon the SP mind.  The final blow comes in the form of the television set. 

Cleverly, the SJs will begin making their products available to eager customers.  There will be strings attached, of course, but so great is the mania for television sets and non-stick frying pans that Artisans will pay any price.  Tribes which would once have fought to the death against the invaders will become staunch allies of the Guardians. 

When the ESTJ Underlord discovers how quickly brave freedom fighters will sacrifice their ideals for a chocolate bar and a TV, he will change his strategy entirely.  Through a series of cunning trade alliances, he will divide the tribes against one another so that Artisans are fighting Artisans.  Meanwhile, he will continue his corruption of the conquered populace by means of little slips of paper called “money,” rent-to-own schemes, and glossy catalogs. 

In exchange for these privileges, Artisans who live under the Guardian rule will learn the meaning of words like “jury duty,” “8-5” and “legal.”  They will learn how to read and write—not just their names, but thousands of words.  They will get citizen ID numbers, pay taxes, and get proper licenses for their businesses.  Those who refuse to participate in this brainwashing scheme will be sent to “rehabilitation camps” that teach proper Judging behavior. 

Artisans who come back from the SJ rehabilitation camps are not the same.  They wear a little clock clamped around their wrist like a shackle, and a maniacal light flashes in their eyes whenever someone arrives late to a mutant hunting party.  Your looting buddy got caught and sent to the camps, and next time you saw him he was totally different.  His hair was short and neat, his pants freshly pressed, and on his wrist he bore the “watch”—a pitiful specter of a once proud man.  When you gave him a few gold flecks so he could get back on his feet, he wrote you out a receipt. 

You are too much of a loner to join up with an army, and you are concerned that the ESTJ Underlord may still bear you some small animosity for ruining his subterranean paradise ten years ago, so you keep your head down and your hat brim pulled low.  Still, the reemergence of the Guardians does remind you of something—or rather, someone

The question of what could have been between you and the ESFJ Bunkerdragon is one of the great “what ifs” of your life.   You’ve loved other women since then, and when things were over you forgot them.  But for some reason she sticks in your mind, occupying your thoughts when you huddle in your lean-to on a rainy night.  You suppose that she probably has a husband and children by now.  …But what if she doesn’t? 

One day, you decide to put the question to rest.  Finding out what happened to the ESFJ Bunkerdragon shouldn’t be very hard: the Guardians keep a written database of every single citizen of the Empire, and all you have to do is consult the appropriate authority for the information. 

Actually it will be anything but easy.  You will stand in line for hours on end, filling out paperwork and being shuffled from bureaucrat to bureaucrat.  Things will be made more complicated because you don’t have all the information required for the forms. 

“You didn’t fill out all the fields,” the latest bureaucrat observes for the thousandth time.

Wearily you recite, “I don’t have a citizen ID number.  I don’t have a last name.  I don’t have an address, phone number, or any contact information of any kind.  I don’t know my birth date.  And that ‘X’ is my signature.”

The Guardian stares at you as if you are some kind of alien. 

You drop a few flakes of gold on the forms.  “Maybe you could expedite things for me?”

But the SJ bureaucrat is so honest that he doesn’t even understand what a bribe is, and you are sent to stand in line at the Citizen ID Application center for four more hours. 


Finally, after weeks of mind-numbing boredom and frustration, a bureaucrat will dutifully hand you a piece of paper with a single sentence on it that you can’t read.  Upon being prompted, he will clear his throat, frown, and read aloud, “Citizen #287548444 of the ESFJ Service Providers Caste is currently an inmate in the Dungeon of Despair.”

“What?”

“Citizen #2875—”

“She’s in prison?  What’s she doing there?”

“For that you would have to request a criminal records—”

“Just tell me!” you explode, all your patience gone.  “It’s written down right there in your file, isn’t it?  Isn’t it!  Tell me what happened to her or I’ll—!”

The bureaucrat perceives that you are about to become violent.  Fortunately for him, you were forced to check your guns at the entrance of the facility.  Fuming with thwarted rage, you are escorted outside by a pair of security guards.  Your question remains unanswered, but in your heart you already know why she is in prison: she helped you escape. 

You hit the local bar to drown your inverted fury in drink.  Sensing your foul mood, the other patrons give you a wide berth.  Except, of course, for those who are too cluelessly friendly to know better. 

“Heya old-timer, why the long face?” the ESFP Daredevil says cheerfully, plopping herself down next to you.  (By Artisan standards, you are old.  Anyone past thirty is considered old.  Whereas Guardians will lead long, dull lives and die in bed of a stress related heart condition at age sixty-five, most Artisans will die violent deaths somewhere between age twenty and thirty.  You are somewhere in your mid-thirties, practically ancient by SP standards.) 

You growl your only response.  How is it that you have been stuck in this town long enough that people recognize you?

“Aww,” she says.  “Tough day at the Bureau of Naturalization?  Did you find out where that ESFJ went?”

You give her a short, scathing look.  “Prison.”

“Ooh, that’s bad,” she says.  “But, there’s visiting hours, right?”

Visiting hours.   You rub your grizzled chin, anger forgotten.  Now there’s a thought that hadn’t occurred to you. 

Just as you are about to respond, someone touches you on the shoulder.  You whirl around, the barrel of your gun pressed into an ESTP Raider’s gut.  The ESTP grins nervously at you, his hands held out to his sides. 

“Heeeey, don’t shoot me, huh?  I have something for you.”

“Don’t touch me,” you say coldly.  “Ever.”

The ESFP Daredevil tuts.  “Don’t kill him, he’s my boyfriend.”

“Darn right I am,” the boyfriend says proudly.  The ESFP Daredevil hops up and hugs him.  He spins her around.  She giggles.  The air fills with the odor of scented body lotion. 

Extraverts.  You grudgingly holster your gun. 

“Oh, but I do have something for you,” the ESTP Raider says, pausing in his spinning.  He produces an envelope from his coat.  “This is for you.  Sorry.  Don’t shoot the messenger.”

The envelope is on official stationary, sealed with the sign of a clock in pressed wax.  You may not be able to read, but there is no mistaking the “Watch” emblem of the rehabilitation camps.  Now that you have a citizen ID number, everything you say and do will follow you for the rest of your life.  Today’s anti-social behavior at the Bureau of Naturalization was duly recorded and inserted into your file.  This is the result. 

“Don’t worry, you don’t have to report in until next week,” the ESTP Raider says, turning his attention back to the ESFP’s low cut neckline.  “Plenty of time to skip town.”

Except that you can’t skip town.  Not if you want to visit the ESFJ Bunkerdragon in the Dungeon of Despair.  You’re sure it will take at least two weeks just to turn in the application to get a writ of passage to visit the Guardian’s underground empire, much less to visit the dungeons themselves. 


The forger does good work. 

“This writ is good for one week,” he says.  “That long enough?”

You nod, and he signs all the documents for you with neat SJ-style handwriting.  Though expensive, his expediting services are well worth the cost, and you pay him without complaint.  Just two days have passed; five left till you have to report in to the camp.  Now all you have to do is get to the dungeons and flee to the far hills before your absenteeism is noted. 

You left the ancient city of the Guardians through a hidden little door.  Ten years later, the hidden little door is a manned checkpoint secured by ISTJ Inspectors who search you and your baggage for undeclared goods.  Eyebrows will be raised at the large quantity of ammunition you are bringing into the caves, but you coolly present the proper papers for everything.  They scrutinize all of it assiduously.  Then, like magic, you are allowed through. 

It feels surreal to be strolling down the catwalks of the underground city once again.  There are the mushroom gardens where you carelessly tossed that match.  There are the opulent cupolas encrusted with gold and jewels.  There is the glowing yellow lake with its fleet of fishing boats.  Nothing has changed at all.  But then, the Guardians aren’t big on change. 

The difference you feel is inside yourself.  You left here as a young adventurer, and now you have returned as—what?  An older adventurer?  A disgruntled citizen?  A man chasing after a foolish, nostalgic memory of a woman he seduced and perhaps loved?  You can hardly imagine that the ESFJ Bunkerdragon would feel anything but bitterness towards you now.  In fact, she’ll probably call for the guards as soon as she lays eyes on you.  So why are you doing this?  There is a hacksaw blade hidden in your jacket lining, but you’re not sure why you bothered to bring it. 

Even with your forged documents, the bureaucrats who run the Dungeon of Despair are reluctant to give you a walk-in visit with Citizen #287548444, insisting that her visiting hours have been restricted to no visits ever.  You have to press them before they will grudgingly admit that she is allowed one visitor per year, but only because of good behavior. 

A guard escorts you down to the deepest, dankest level of the dungeon.  The flickering torches and scurrying rats fill you with memories both painful and pleasant.  You wonder if any of the guards will recognize you, but fortunately most of the old dungeonkeepers were so ashamed by your escape that they resigned en masse.  The new crew doesn’t realize that there is an outstanding warrant for your arrest, which is good, or else you would doubtless be headed for the dragonbat cage by now. 

The visiting chamber is just as gloomy, dark and obsessively clean as the rest of the dungeon.  Your escort leaves you locked inside the visiting chamber while he goes to retrieve the ESFJ Bunkerdragon.  You pace restlessly around the empty chamber.  Your palms are sweaty and your heart is racing.  What will you say?  What will she say?

The door opens.  The ESFJ is standing there.  Her lips part in a startled gasp that mirrors your own indrawn breath.  The guard watches curiously, but at a hard glance from you, he departs.  You and the ESFJ are left alone. 

You cross the room in two quick strides, only to pause, uncertain of what to say.  She too stands there, frozen.  Your gaze takes in her pallid skin, her large, dark eyes, and that shining auburn hair which you once buried your hands in.  She looks older now, but so are you. 

“Well,” you say awkwardly.  “I’m back.”

Tears spring up in her eyes.  She throws her arms around you in an extraverted feeler hug, and you hesitantly prepare an introverted thinker hug.  But then something...unexpected happens.  You had intended to hug her—a friendly, platonic gesture to demonstrate remembered affection.  So why is her mouth suddenly on yours?  Then you forget everything but her lips, her hands, her smell, her heart beating hard against yours. 

When you finally part, you are flushed and breathless.  Neither of you lets go of the other.  You stare into her deep, dark eyes, startled by the power of your own feelings.  It's as if no time at all has passed since you stepped through that little door.  No time at all. 

“What are you doing here?” she asks at last. 

“I came for you,” you reply.  “I’m sorry.  I didn’t realize what happened.  I thought they would never suspect one of their own.”

She smiles.  “Of course they didn’t suspect me.  I confessed.”

You go rigid in her arms.  “You—you—confessed?  They tortured you?”

“No, silly.  I couldn’t just break the rules and get away with it, could I?  So I went and told them what I did.”

Your incredulous silence stretches for a lengthy moment.  When she said she had to stay and do her duty, you didn’t know that she meant confessing and going to prison for the rest of her life.  Your SP mind struggles to comprehend her bizarre Guardian sense of responsibility.   

“Uhm.  Well.  I’ve come to break you out.”  You produce the saw from your coat. 

Her eyes widen.  “But I haven’t served out my sentence.”

“What do you mean?” you say.  But in some horrified corner of your mind, you do understand. 

“I still have another twenty-two years, eight months, and sixteen days left to serve.”

“You can’t stay here and rot!”

She gives you a brave smile that tells you that she can. 

“You’re not paying for your crime, you’re paying for mine,” you say angrily.  “And I didn’t even do anything wrong.  So you don’t have to stay here.  It’s not right.

“Actually, according to the Sacred Operating Procedures Manual—”

Over the course of the next hour you try every tactic you know to convince her to escape.  Logic fails, seduction fails, even begging fails.  Then, at last, the guard comes to take the ESFJ back to her cell. 

Desperate, you are pondering the idea of knocking out both the guard and the ESFJ and dragging the latter off with you, but she senses your intention and cups your cheek.  Smiling tenderly, she says.  “Thank you for coming back.  I wish I could come with you.  Please go, and remember I will always love you.” 

With one last, lingering caress, she steps away.  Then the door sniks shut, and she is gone.  You stand there, suddenly empty. 


You sit at the bar, drink forgotten your hand, staring numbly into space.  This is one of those rare problems that can’t be solved by a bullet in the head.  Now you don’t know what to do. 

“What are you still doing here?” the ESFP Daredevil asks from her position on her boyfriend’s lap.  “Aren’t you supposed to be at the rehab camp, like, tomorrow?”

“I’ve got two days left,” you mutter. 

“I know a girl in the next town who’d love to meet you,” the ESTP offers.  “Want me to set you up?”

You shake your head. 

“Anything I could do to help?”

You shake your head. 

“You could ask always the Oracles for help, I suppose,” the ESFP remarks. 

The Oracles…!   Now there’s a thought.  

The ESFP Daredevil clears her throat.  “I made a joke, but you’re not laughing.  Why are you not laughing?”

“He’s actually thinking about it,” the boyfriend says.  “Geez.”

The Oracles are the solution of last resort for problems that can’t be solved by a bullet in the head.  There are two of them, the distant Oracle of Truth and the local Oracle of Mystery.  Though surrounded by an aura of fear and superstition, the truth is that the Oracles are simply a Rational and an Idealist who dispense free advice—for a price. 

“That’s not a bad idea,” you say slowly. 

“Well, at least it’ll put some distance between you and the rehab camp,” the ESFP Daredevil says.  “Can I have your dried ear collection?  To remember you by?”


The Idealist Oracle of Mystery is a mere two hours’ walk away, but you would rather do almost anything except go there.  So instead, you journey north into the Blasted Mountains to seek the distant Rational Oracle of Truth.  It is a three day journey, so now you are officially a camp-dodger.  Even now, a nameless Guardian scribe is scribbling a note on your record, setting in motion the machinery that will, Byuros and Crassia willing, lead to your capture and rehabilitation. 

On the way to the Oracle, you dig up your most precious possession—a mysterious glass sphere filled with beautiful many-colored beads.  You will need it to pay the Oracle. 

After the apocalypse, most of the Rationals vanished.  A few INTPs still wander cluelessly about the landscape, and occasionally you bump into a degenerate ENTP dressed up like an ESTP, but these are rare exceptions.  The only Rationals who remain in numbers are the INTJ Masterminds—the “burrowing” Rationals.  Restocking their falling numbers through cloning, INTJs have survived for thousands of years in various lairs hidden around the world. 

The many years of living in underground tunnels have changed the INTJs just as it changed the Guardians.  You don’t know anyone who has personally seen an INTJ, but rumors have it that they are short of stature (the better to navigate tunnels) and have a dwarf-like appearance, valuing precious metals that they work into cunning devices.  Those same rumors also say that the INTJs live in large social groups and value tradition above all else, which makes you suspect that the NTs interbred with a lost Guardian colony at some point. 

Of course, those are good rumors.  The bad rumors warn of shrunken Morlock-like beings, half-spider, half-ape, that emerge in the darkness to drag unsuspecting victims down to their doom. 

The bad rumors are on your mind as you arrive at the cave where the Oracle dwells.  Holding your gift out like a ward, you advance cautiously into the darkness, expecting at any moment to be attacked by shrieking INTJ spider-apes.  There is nothing but silence, yet you have the chilling feeling that dozens of gleaming eyes are fixed on you.  The air smells of rusting machinery. 

Placing your gift on the cave floor, you retreat to a distance.  You shout, “I wish to consult the Oracle of Truth.  I have brought a gift in exchange.”

Your voice echoes in the darkness.  When the sounds die away, there is nothing but the soft noise of dripping.  You have the distinct sensation that you and your gift are being examined like a steak at a meat market.  Homo delicans, whispers a voice that could be miles away or speaking right in your ear. 

A thin, pale arm snakes down from the ceiling, and elongated fingers close around the sphere and draw it up into the darkness.  Something about the movement is unnatural, and you cannot repress a shiver of revulsion.  For a long moment, the blackness is silent. 

A dark voice rasps, “This is a gumball machine.”

You are uncertain about what the Oracle is talking about.  Assuming that it is referring to your gift, you explain, “The sphere is made of an unbreakable substance, very rare.  The beads—”

“There’s a term for that substance, Artisan,” the Oracle hisses.  “‘Plastic.’  Cheap plastic.  And those ‘beads’ are merely fossilized sweets smothered in excessive amounts of preservatives.  I am displeased.”

The gumball machines falls to the ground with a crash.  Drops of sweat break out on your forehead.  Falling back on your limited grasp of Rational psychology, you say, “I…regret wasting your time.  My problem is so difficult and complicated that such a poor gift could never pay for it.  I will consult the other Oracle.”

You turn to go, expecting at any moment to feel spidery hands closing around your throat. 

“Wait,” the Oracle says.  “This problem…is it…technical?  It doesn’t have anything to do with love, does it?”

“No,” you lie.  “It’s uhm…a legal question.”

“Very well,” the dark voice hisses.  “Speak.”

You explain that an SJ…friend…helped you commit a crime, then confessed and ended up in Guardian prison.  You want to save them, but they won’t go.  You aren’t sure what to do.  How do you get your SJ friend to agree to escape with you?

The Oracle of Truth is silent, pondering your statement.  At last, it rasps, “Let us reframe the question.  Your goal is to set your friend free; she will only comply if she feels she is legally entitled to depart.  What you require is a ‘loophole’ in the law.  Do you know what a loophole is?”

“A noose of some kind?”  (Artisans don’t have law codes.  The only law you need is the six bullets in your gun.)

The Oracle gives a condescending laugh.  “A loophole is a flaw in the technical structure of a law.  For example, there might be an overly vague statement that supposedly has one clear reading, yet in reality is open to an unexpected interpretation.  By exploiting the flaw, you can fulfill the letter of the law, while voiding its spirit.”

“Where do a I find a ‘loophole’?”

“You'll have to read the Manual.  (You can read, I hope?)  Look for obsolescent laws which no longer makes sense, yet remain on the books.  Or an obscure law which has been forgotten.  The goal is to obey the law, but in a creative way that will allow your ESFJ friend to go free legally.  I suggest you begin with Chapter 5.”

“What’s in Chapter 5?”

“The penal code.  You should be able to read through it in a day or two.  Now begone; my patience for this trivial problem expires.”

With a hasty thanks, you stoop to pick up your rejected gift. 

“Leave it,” the Oracle orders.  “My daughter-spawn are intrigued by the concept of preservative-coated saccharides.”

In the darkness you hear the scurrying of hundreds of little bony legs.  You can’t get out of that cave fast enough. 


When you are back in town three days later, you go hunting for a Standard Operating Procedures Manual.  It isn’t difficult to find one;  there are always rehabilitated Artisans standing on the street corners passing them out.  You accept a thick manual from a glazed-looked man with neat hair and crack it open on the spot. 

“Read this,” you order.  “Chapter 5.”

Stumblingly, the man complies. “This Penal Code (referred to hereafter as the “Code”), which subsumes and replaces the previous version of the Code, shall be binding upon all citizens of Cavfoor (for non-citizens see Supplement X).  No part of it is retroactive, unless expressly so declared.  The rule of the common law, that penal statutes are to be strictly construed, has no application to this Code.  All its provisions are to be construed according to the fair import of their terms, with a view to effect its objects and to promote justice.  The provisions of this Code, so far as they are substantially the same as existing statutes, must be construed as continuations thereof, and not as new enactments.  No act or omission, commenced after twelve o'clock noon of the day on which this Code takes effect as a law, is criminal or punishable, except as prescribed or authorized by this Code, or by some of the statutes which it specifies as continuing in force and as not affected by its provisions, or by some ordinance, municipal, or cavern regulation, passed or adopted, under such statutes and in force when this Code takes effect.  Any act or omission commenced prior to that time may be inquired of, prosecuted, and punished in the same manner as if this Code had not been passed.  Words used in this code in the present tense include the future as well as the present; words used in the masculine gender include the feminine and neuter; the singular number includes the plural, and the plural the singular; the word "person" includes a mutated person as well as a natural person though not an undead person; the word "cave" includes "grotto” and “cavern"; writing includes printing and typewriting; oath includes affirmation or declaration; and every mode of oral statement, under oath or affirmation, is embraced by the term "testify," and every written one in the term "depose"; signature or subscription includes…”

This is only the opening of the preamble.  The Manual reads like a semicolon filled stream of multisyllabic nonsense broken only by the phrase, “the guilty one shall be thrown to the sacred dragonbats.”

Doubtless the Manual makes sense to the Guardians, but it doesn’t mean anything to you.  Angrily you slam the Manual on the ground as hard as you can, a minor offense in itself.  Curse Rationals and their overly complicated plans.  Curse Guardians and their overly complicated rules.  Artisans are the only sane type. 

Later, you commiserate with the ESFP and her boyfriend, who are surprised that you have returned alive.  The ESFP Daredevil offers, “You could always try the other Oracle.”

The ESTP Raider glares at him.  “Are you trying to get him killed?”

“Maybe I just really want his ear collection.”

At that moment the bartender leans close and mutters, “Those two men who just came in have been asking about you.  They’re Catchers.”

You look up.  Two tough-looking Artisans with clock armbands are scanning the bar.  Their gaze falls on you.  The eyes of man on the left widen with recognition, though you do not know him.  You affix him with a narrow-eyed look.  Your hand rests lightly on the butt of your gun. 

“He matches the description,” the man on the right says. 

“Shhh, you fool!” his partner hisses.  “And for the love of Byuros and Crassia keep your hand away from your gun.  Don’t you know who that is?”

“Who—?” the man on the right says, shooting a puzzled glance at his buddy. 

Forcing a smile, the buddy says loudly, “Looks it was all a case of mistaken identity.  We won’t be coming back here again, that’s for sure.”  He drags his pal out, thereby saving you two bullets. 

You turn back to your drink.  You suppose you could try the Oracle of Mystery, though it has an even worse reputation than the Oracle of Truth.  Just as most of the Rationals vanished after the apocalypse, so most of the Idealists are also gone.  The NFs mutated, developed strange psychic powers, and proceeded to ascend to a higher plane of existence.  Those that didn’t ascend were the dregs of Idealistkind, twisted creatures who will happily boil your blood for the sheer pleasure of listening to you scream.  In the stories, the desperate fools who visit the Oracle of Mystery usually seem to end up transformed, cursed, or saddled with a destiny like, “You will kill your father and marry your mother.”  Though inhuman, Rationals can at least be reasoned with.  Idealists are motivated only by their sick hatred for anything beautiful and uncorrupt. 

“You aren’t seriously gonna visit the Oracle of Mystery, are you?” the ESTP Raider says.  “‘Cause that seems like a really, really nasty way to go.”


The Oracle of Mystery is somewhere deep in the center of an old, gloomy forest.  No one knows exactly where the Oracle is, but if you walk far enough into the forest you will eventually stumble over it.  For two hours you journey through a pathless expanse of trees, your feet sinking into moss and pine needles.  Hungry-vines clutch at your legs, and tendrils of dead moss whisper across your face like spider webs. 

As the sun begins to sink below the horizon, you suddenly find yourself standing in front of a hole formed from the coiling roots of an ancient tree.  The bark is carved with strange glyphs that seem to twist when you look at them.  No birds sing in the branches, no leaves rustle; the empty forest is silent as a grave.  The only sound is the leaves crackling under your feet as you make your way to the tree and duck inside.  Your hands are empty; the Oracle of Mystery cannot be bribed. 

Inside, you are enveloped by a vile stench.  Your stomach curdles with the sick, sick wrongness of it, but you breath though your mouth and announce,  “I have come to seek the counsel of the Oracle of Mystery.”

FIRE!  Fire, burning your skin up!  You scream and writhe as your flesh is seared into ash. 

Then just as suddenly as it came, the sensation is gone.  You lay there, gasping on a bed of dry leaves.  The fading light illuminates an empty hollow.  You lurch to your feet, ready to run, but—maybe this is a test.  The stories mention such things. 

Instead of fleeing, you steel yourself and repeat, “I have come to seek the counsel of the Oracle of Mystery.”

WATER!  You’re drowning!  Your ears pop as you are thrust into the heart of the ocean.  Desperately you claw for the surface.  Water fills your nose, your mouth, your lungs—you’re bursting from the inside with liquid. 

The water vanishes, and you suck air in desperately.  Your flailing limbs churn dead leaves.  Again you leap up, ready to flee, but you can’t give up now.  You grit your jaw and speak through clenched teeth, “I have come to seek the counsel of the Oracle of Mystery.”

Darkness.  Thick, all-enveloping darkness that encircles you with ice cold fingers.  You feel your limbs stiffen, your sightless eyes rolling back in their sockets.  The damp, moldy odor of gravecloth fills your nostrils.  Maggots wriggle across your skin, gnawing, gnawing, gnawing. 

Terror like nothing you have ever felt before seizes you.  Now you try to escape, but it’s too late—your rotting fists smash futilely on the lid of a coffin. 

Then you are back in the dead leaves, trembling in every limb.  Panting, you stumble to your feet.  The gloomy forest outside beckons to you like life itself.  You stagger for the glyph-ringed door. 

Halfway out you stop.  Every instinct screams at you to get out of there.  But… 

Reluctantly you look back, and mutter, “I have come to seek the Oracle of Mystery.”  You flinch. 

The sickening stench increases, congealing until it fills the empty hollow with a presence.  Suddenly you find yourself looking at a hooded figure seated cross-legged across the chamber from you.  There is no telling if it is male or female; the black cloak shrouds everything but a pair of skeletal wings protruding from its back.  The Oracle of Mystery sits motionless, formless, a dark void.  Your skin crawls.

Speak, whispers a silken voice.  There is no sound; the word falls upon your mind like a black feather settling onto the surface of a still pool. 

Your mouth works, and finally some incoherent words rasp out of your dry throat.  “The ESFJ.  I have to save her.”

You love her.  The soft voice is both enticing and nauseating.  Bile rises at the back of your throat even as your mouth fills with warm saliva. 

“Yes.”

Is it true love?

You had never considered that question before—but of course you are not an NF.  You guess it must be true love, or else you would be dating the ESTP Raider’s cute friend instead of sitting here with this monster.  “Yes,” you repeat. 

You have the horrible sensation that the hooded figure is smiling.  True love is the most powerful force in the universe. 

Sure.  You nod as you try to hold back vomit. 

What price would you pay to save her? the Idealist asks.

“Anything,” you say.

Then I will give you a great gift.  Open your hands.  Open your soul. 

You open shaky hands.  Fire flashes in your hands and suddenly you are holding a sealed scroll. 

If you wish to be with your true love, you must take this to the warden of the prison, the Idealist says.  Then, and only then, shall your true love be freed.

“Thank you,” you choke out.  Your stomach is heaving, and bile is crawling up the back of your throat.  

Again, you sense a horrid smile.  That is the first gift, the NF whispers.  Here is the second.

“What do you—”

A metal band clamps painfully around your wrist.  The sound of ticking fills the silence.  A watch.  You are wearing a watch.

Look closely, mortal, the Oracle says. 

You do, and notice that this watch does not resemble any of the others you have seen.  The glossy black face is marked with twenty-four hours rather than twelve. 

Behold: the Watch, the Idealist says with sickly sweet satisfaction.  He who wears it shall have Time for his servant. 

“Thank you,” you gag, though you don’t have the slightest clue what that means—will the Watch make you more punctual?  You are beginning to lose control.  Your muscles tremble, everything inside of you longing to flee this dark hole. 

But a great gift comes with a great price, the NF says.  Here is the payment I demand: if you have not freed the ESFJ in 24 hours, then I shall transform you into a gentle, kind-hearted INFJ, like myself, and you shall serve me for twenty-four years—once for each hour you delayed.  

The INFJ looks up, and within the hood you see a grinning skull stretched with worm-white skin, the eyes black hollows that blaze with fire.  Do you agree?

You must be mad.  “Yes,” you say faintly.  “I agree.”

That was the first price, the Oracle says.  Here is the second.

The INFJ holds up a hand that is more bone than flesh, and clutched in those skeletal claws is your gun.  You give a start, reaching for the empty holster. 

He who lives by the sword shall die by the sword.  You must not harm any creature between now and the moment the ESFJ is freed.  If you harm any living thing, then your soul is forfeit to me forever.  Do you agree?

You stare at your gun, wanting to snatch it back but somehow knowing that if you try you are as good as dead. 

Do you agree?

NO, you want to say.  This is insane!  Does this stupid INFJ have any idea how many enemies you have?  But you have already gone too far to go back.  Swallowing, you force yourself to nod. 

The bargain is sealed.  Twenty-four hours, starting now.  The Oracle vanishes into a cloud of putrescent black mist. 

Grabbing your gun, you drag yourself out of the tree, retching uncontrollably.  When you have recovered, you rush back to town as fast as your shaking legs can take you. 

In the final glimmers of light, you examine the two gifts you have been given.  The black Watch ticks loudly on your wrist, its red hands glowing.  It seems to suck the light out of everything around it, as if it carries within it some soulless emptiness.  Experimentally, you try to remove the Watch, and are relieved to see that the metal band comes easily off—somehow you had expected that it would be melded to your flesh or something.  You don’t like its cold, lifeless surface touching you, but you slip it back on. 

The scroll is sealed with gold wax.  Your first thought is to break the seal and look at what’s inside, but the Guardians set great store by seals, and a broken one would be worthless.  You tuck it under your arm and focus on running. 

Within a few hours, you reach the entry checkpoint manned by the ISTJ Sentinels.  How you will get in, you don’t know.  The writ of entry the forger made for you has expired, and you can’t blast your way through.  You have your gun with you, but it might as well be loaded with blanks for all the good it will do. 

“We’re closed,” a guard says as you appear—then he notices the scroll in your hand.  “Apologies!” he says instantly.  “You may pass.”

To your astonishment, no questions are asked, no demands made.  You are shuttled efficiently through the checkpoint into the elevator leading down to the underground city.  You stare at the scroll, wondering if it too is magical.  If everything goes this easily, then you will have the ESFJ freed within the hour!

The ESFJ prison guards are just as impressed by the scroll as the Inspectors.  No sooner do you ask to see the warden then you are escorted to her office, a clean, businesslike space lit by the usual torches.  There is an inexplicable stench in the air, however, and upon closer investigation you realize that it is a faint echo of the Idealist’s noxious miasma.  Experimentally, you raise the Watch to your nose and sniff.  Your stomach turns over.  Now that you’re in an enclosed room, the corpse-like reek emanating from the Watch is unmistakable. 

“The warden will be here shortly,” the ESFJ says, carefully breathing through his mouth.  “We got her out of bed and she’s headed over as fast as she can.”

You nod, checking your Watch.  Two hours lost in finding your way out of the forest.  Three more hours lost making your way to the checkpoint.  One more hour lost making your way from the elevator to the prison.  You have eighteen hours left.  The blood red hands tick downward, but you tell yourself you have plenty of time.  You fill the vanishing minutes by examining the painted ikon on the wall, which appears to be a depiction of Byuros and Crassia giving paperclips to a grateful mankind. 

The warden, a lesser ESTJ Underlord, arrives breathless and flustered looking.  She pauses upon noticing the stench, then lays the matter aside to deal with later.  “I am here,” she says.  “What command does my king have for me?”

You hand her the scroll.  She takes it and reverently breaks the golden seal.  Curious, you watch her face as she scans the contents. 

The warden looks from the scroll to you, then back at the scroll again, then back at you.  Her gaze sharpens, and you feel an uneasy suspicion stir in your gut.  You snatch the scroll from her fingers.  On it are two pictures of your face, one young, one old.  You can almost hear the Idealist’s sadistic laughter. 


What happens next isn’t pretty.  Despite the INFJ’s betrayal, you still cannot harm any living thing—though you desperately, desperately want to.  The ESFJs who shackle you to the wall of a holding cell try to remove the Watch, but it won’t come off despite their efforts.  Finally they leave you alone.  You hang there through the night, listening to the Watch tick, tick, tick.  The cell fills with the reek of wrongness.  

Nine hours and thirty-five minutes pass in darkness.  Then the guards return and remove your manacles.  You are brought out of the dungeon into the dim golden light of the cavern.  Under heavy guard, you cross the maze of catwalks that spans the ceiling of the great cave. 

Soon you realize that you are headed toward a majestic palace clinging to the cave wall.  The palace’s doors and cupolas are solid gold, and the facade is formed of pink marble veined with natural gold.  It can only be the residence of the ESTJ Underlord himself. 

A glimpse of red carpet and gilded splendor; then you are thrown to your knees at your enemy’s feet.  The ESTJ sits on a massive throne that dominates the hall where he passes his judgments.  You glower up at him, your head held high. 

The ESTJ smiles grimly.  “Let him stand.  This man has committed no crime.”

Your eyes pop.  The milling crowd filling the hall seems equally taken aback.

“His records have been reviewed, and the Great Committee is in unanimous agreement,” the ESTJ states.  “The statute of limitations for littering, attempted poaching and attempted theft is a decade.  His crimes were committed ten years and one day ago.  Byuros and Crassia forbid that I should sacrifice a citizen of the empire to the dragonbats without cause.”

The Watch!  The Watch!   You stare down at it in awe.  Somehow you have arrived at exactly the correct time—the correct time in this case being defined as “one day late.”  Maybe the INFJ didn’t screw you over so badly after all…though now you only have seven hours left.  There’s no time to lose.  You clamber to your feet. 

The ESTJ’s advisers are not pleased with their lord’s verdict. 

“But your majesty!” an ESFJ Bunkerdragon of the Caterer’s Guild cries.  “He was the one—”

“The law is the law,” the ESTJ says, a flash of anger darting out from beneath his dark brows.  “Do you suggest we disobey the Manual, and become like Artisans ourselves?”

The adviser falls silent, ashamed.  The ESTJ turns back to you.  “I see that you wear a watch,” he says, smiling coldly.  “Good.  Guards!  Escort him to the nearest rehabilitation camp for thorough socialization.”


You are not brought back to the surface.  Instead, you are put on a small boat and rowed across the lake towards a walled island.  From the conversation of the guards, you gather that this is a special rehab camp for particularly incorrigible cases. 

You are pushed into a metal room containing a tub full of steaming water and a chair with ominous straps.  All the furnishings are solid steel, and there are no loose objects of any kind that could be used as a weapon.  Each polished surfaces is covered with scratches which attest to the fact that previous occupants resisted to the utmost measure of their strength.  You would be resisting too, were it not for the fact that your soul would be forfeit if you harmed anyone.  You don’t know how the INFJ plans to convert you into its own type, but you’re pretty sure the creature will do a more thorough job of it than anything the Guardians could inflict on you. 

“Ack, what a reek!” the attendants exclaim the moment you set foot inside the small, unventilated room.  (There are no ventilation shafts in the building, these having been eliminated to prevent escapes.)

You inform them curtly that the Watch is the source of the odor, and no, it will not come off.  (You have a hunch that only you can remove it.)  The SJs suspiciously examine the Watch but can find no way to detach it, nor any way to remove the battery.  However, they conclude that it is definitely the source of the smell, and also that it has a nonstandard dial, and must therefore be destroyed.  You will receive compensation for the loss of your property.  “There’s something wrong about it,” one of the SJs observes uneasily, fingering the Watch, then pulling his hands away as if he has touched something unclean. 

“We can’t bathe him with the watch on,” points out another Guardian.  “It could short out—an electrical hazard.”

“A technician can be here in half an hour to remove it.”

“We’ll start with the hair correction then,” the supervisor decides.  “Strap him down.”

You are feeling more uneasy by the moment.  Especially when an ESFJ gives you a kindly pat on the shoulder and says, “Don’t worry, this won’t hurt a bit.”  You fix her with your most dark and mysterious look.  She promptly and efficiently straps you down to the chair.  Two more ESFJs of the Barber’s Guild approach with a razor and a sharp little pair of scissors. 

Despite the ominous appearance of these implements, being shorn like a sheep doesn’t actually hurt—unless, of course, one counts your dignity.  The perennial stubble that darkens your jaw is expertly removed, leaving you feeling inexplicably naked.  Simultaneously your hair, which you cut yourself because you don’t let anyone near your skin with sharp things, is snipped and combed, snipped and combed into the short, neat style that has been de jour among Guardian males for the last ten thousand years. 

As they work, an ISTJ Sentinel gives you an orientation.  “Today will be devoted to hygienic matters.  Once your physical appearance has been brought up to code, you will attend an induction ceremony at which you will receive your planner and a standard regulation watch.  Tomorrow you will begin your training.  Each day will begin at 7 am.  You will rise promptly, complete the morning checklist, and report on time for inspection at 8 am sharp.  Be punctual; tardiness will not be tolerated.  The first class of the day will introduce the concept of basic organizational skills.  You will be taught to place your possessions consistently in the same locations rather than dropping them on the floor.  The second class covers reading and writing for applied comprehension of the Sacred Operating Procedures Manual.  Next there will be a one hour lunch break, during which time you may return to your cell and rest.  No alcoholic beverages will be served during the lunch break.  After lunch is over, you will do guided punctuality drills with an instructor for two hours.  This will be followed by the fourth period course in tax preparation.  The final hour of the day will be devoted to practical demonstrations by masters of the Cleanly Arts: vacuuming, dusting, etc.  After the 5 pm bell rings, you are free to indulge in wholesome recreational pastimes; needless to say, these pastimes will be quiet and nonviolent.  Violence is strictly prohibited at all times.  Cigarettes and alcohol are also prohibited on the grounds, and those caught in possession of them will be punished severely.  Do not destroy camp property.  Do not attempt to seduce the guards.  A full list of rules will be made available to you in pictorial format.”

When your hair cut is done, the barbers thank you for not trying to bite them.  They produce a mirror so that you can admire their handiwork.  Reflected back at you is a man you don’t recognize—clean-shaven, dapper, fresh-faced.  Rather like a wolf trimmed to look like a french poodle. 

“There, doesn’t that look better now?” your captors say cheerfully. 

The annoying thing about SJs is not so much that they want to reform the world, but that they expect the world to be duly grateful for it.  You turn away from the mirror, glowering at everything. 

Tsking, the barbers sweep up your fallen hair and vanish.  The evil stench of your Watch has by this time built up to a nauseating level.  Five hours and twelve minutes left, the ticking device announces gleefully.  Odd how you used to have to stare at a clock forever to figure out what the positions of the hands meant; now you look and know. 

As the minutes pass, the stench goes from intolerable to downright toxic.  The younger guard is looking green; with a pained look at his older colleague, he croaks, “I need to go outside.”

“It won’t be long before the technician gets here,” the older guard says, nevertheless looking longingly at the door. 

“But we can guard him from outside just as well.”

“I know, but…”  The older guard gestures uneasily in your direction.  The Guardians have learned from previous experience that leaving inventive, incorrigible Artisans alone—even in a locked room with immovable furnishings made of steel—is simply a recipe for disaster.  All the security flaws exploited by previous SPs have been plugged to the best of the SJs’ ability, but…

The Watch’s poisonous miasma finally decides the matter.  Wracked by dry heaves, your guards retreat, leaving you alone to suffocate in the stench of evil.  You pry at the shackles that still hold your arms to the chair.  No luck; hundreds of other Artisans have already tested them in every conceivable way and failed.  Now feeling trapped, you squirm futilely, wishing that your captors might have at least used some nice comfortable chains.  But previous occupants used the chains for garrotes and flails, and the rehabilitation camp is a chain-free zone.

Five hours left, and you are stuck in a rehab camp. 

You knew you were going to die someday, but this time it’s not just death—it’s twenty-four years of enslavement to an INFJ monster.  Not to mention the fact that you're going to get turned into an INFJ yourself...whatever that entails.  You’ve heard that INFJs like poetry; maybe that’s what the INFJ wants from you—someone sensitive and deep who will listen as it reads its favorite poems.  That sounds like a living death.  Maybe you should be devoting your energies to finding a way to kill yourself.  A quick, honest death is better than an eternity of Emily Dickenson. 

As if summoned by your dark thoughts, the stench takes form, clouding into a mind-twisting black void.  Then, somehow, the INFJ is there, hovering cross-legged in the air before you.  Those burning eyes bore into your own. 

Do not think to cheat me, the sibilant voice warns in your mind.  

“You cheated first!” you growl. 

The INFJ makes a tooth-rattling sound that seems to be laughter.  Did I?  Even now, the leader of the Guardians is remembering the events of your escape.  He will recall the harsh sentence he gave the ESFJ, and his conscience will prick him with the realization that he punished her instead of you.  Tonight the Great Committee will review her case, and tomorrow she will be released on parole for good behavior.  So you see, you did free her.  I gave you exactly what you asked for.

You spit at him.  Your aim is perfect, and the INFJ slowly, ominously wipes the spittle off its skull-face.  In five hours, I will fill your mouth with scorpions and your eyes with maggots.  Until then, ISTP. 

At that moment an idea strikes you.  A bizarre, once-in-a-lifetime idea that just might work.  “Guards!” you scream. 

Instantly, there is a rattle of keys at the door.  The guards burst inside.  They take one look at the diabolical apparition hovering there in a cloud of its own darkness and collapse in a dead faint.  The keys tumble from the first guard’s limp hand.  You stretch your foot as far as you can reach and manage to catch the edge of the key ring with your toe.  Hastily you scoot the keys towards you.  With a dexterous maneuver of your ankles, you flip them up into your lap.  Then you insert them one by one into the lock on your shackle.  Moments later you are free. 

The INFJ observes these developments in silence. 

“Thanks,” you say, scooping up the guards’ guns and heading out the door. 


The Idealist didn’t know it, but his mention of the ESFJ's release has given you the inklings of an idea.  But first you have to make your way to the Dungeon of Despair, and you aren’t even sure how you’re going to get out of the rehab camp yet. 

Although you are free, you are still trapped.  You cannot harm any living creature, and fighting your way out with your new guns is not an option—though they may be useful for bluffing purposes.  So, you decide on stealth.  Your hair cut makes you look like a Guardian, so a Guardian you will be. 

The induction center where you were brought for processing contains several storage rooms full of clean, modest clothes for use by the new arrivals.  The Guardians have considerately marked these rooms with pictorial images for the benefit of the illiterate, and you cautiously peek inside one and find nothing more dangerous than freshly starched pants.  Perfect for an escape. 

The SJs would have been better off putting the inmates of the camp in orange jumpsuits, but that would defeat the purpose of turning the rehabilitees into respectable members of society.  You pick out a chalk-colored shirt, blue jacket, dark grey pants, sturdy leather shoes and dark socks.  Though the first outfit won’t fit, there are multiple versions of each item in different sizes, and you soon find the right choice. 

These are actually the nicest clothes you have ever worn in your life, and after carefully checking to make sure that every button is in place, every wrinkle smoothed, you examine yourself in the full-length wall mirror.  The mirror reflects a surprisingly flattering image of yourself.  You scrub the dirt off your face with a little saliva, and decide that you will make an excellent Guardian.  Except of course for that nasty scar that used to be covered up by your chin stubble, the pock-like cigarette burns on your forehead, and that hairless depression halfway up your scalp.  (And the lurid red acid marks on your neck.  And that missing chunk from your left ear.)  Well, there’s nothing you can do about all that.  Maybe it won’t be noticeable. 

Tucking the stolen guns into your belt, you pick up a clipboard that was lying on the counter.  Now you look like a busy, industrious ISTJ Sentinel.  Widening your eyes to mimic the Guardians' huge black orbs, you stroll out, the starchy pants brushing against your legs. 

You pass by the first pair of guards without incident.  They glance at you, and decide that you are one of the trusted prisoners who has earned special privileges.  You are duly ignored.  With a quiet sigh of relief, you stride purposefully for the exit.  Which is...somewhere.   

You wander out of the induction center and into the main halls.  Since class is currently in session, the corridors are empty.  The carpet is short and grey; the walls are steel; the ceiling lights are slabs of hard, pale crystal.  The only decoration is provided by a row of alphabet letters, each with a mnemonic rhyme intended to teach spelling and good morals: “A is for Artisan, tidy and trained, B is for Bottle, a fiend best abstained, C is for Calendar, to note an appointment, D is for Deadline, a dawdler’s disappointment...”  Too bad you can’t read.  All you catch are the words for “Artisan” and “bottle,” which you managed to pick up somewhere. 

Thick steel doors enclose classes full of students.  As you pass by each room, you catch snatches of conversation: “Now what does the big hand mean…”  “Who wants to try the mop…”  “Hold the pencil between thumb and forefinger...remember, writing utensils should never be used in an unsafe fashion…”  The smell of chalk fills your nostrils. 

At last an exit sign carved from glowing green crystal appears.  Following the direction indicated, you find yourself in the tax preparation hallway.  The only noises you hear from behind those doors are the harsh tok, tok, tok of chalk on slates and the sound of someone moaning “line 16, line 16, line 16” over and over.  Your stride quickens. 

At the end of the hallway is another exit crystal, and beneath it is a large, officious sign with pictograms that depict happy reformed Artisans rejoining the world as responsible citizens (the painter failed to capture the glazed expression).  And here you stop.  From the bustle that reaches your ears from beyond the corner, there is a large, heavily guarded checkpoint up ahead.  How are you going to get past?

At the precise moment of your need, an alarm buzzes.  (Thank you, Watch.)  You go taut, thinking that your escape has been discovered, but actually it is just the bell signaling the end of class.  Puzzled by this non-alarm, you edge back into the tax preparation hallway just in time to see the first class be escorted out under guard.  Impulsively you draw one of the guns from your belt. 

You cannot do harm, but nobody said anything about helping others do harm.  You toss the gun at the least glazed looking man in the group, who catches it with a startled expression. 

“That way to the exit,” you say, pointing. 

Your newly armed ally hesitates only a moment; then he whirls on the guards and opens fire.  The guards too draw their guns.  Bullets zing through the air and thud into living flesh.  Screams ring out.  The other Artisans attack their captors with pencils and calculators, but many just stand there with glassy expressions.  In a few moments your ally will be out of bullets and it will all be over.  But a few moments is all you need. 

The guards from the checkpoint hear the shots and come running to help their brethren.  You hug the wall and let them pass, then slip back towards the exit.  The checkpoint is a formidable expanse of barriers, search stations and latex gloved inspectors, but it is now held by only three guards.  Drawing your gun, you leap around the corner. 

“No one move,” you growl.  “Or I’ll drill a hole through your head.”

No one calls your bluff. 

Taking one of the checkpoint workers as a hostage, you back your way to the exit.  With a jerk of your elbow you open the steel-and-glass front doors.  The humid yellow glow of the cavern envelops you, but there is no time to savor the free air.  Dragging your captive, you make your way down to the edge of the lake.   

As you retreat, you hear the steady crack of small arms fire flow in an uninterrupted stream—your ally must have run out of bullets by now, but it seems that other sources of ammunition have been found.  A bullet shatters one of the glass panels in the front door, and you hear screams from within.  Deciding that the checkpoint guards will have their hands full for awhile, you release your hostage.  The inspector flees for safety. 

All the boats are padlocked to a pier.  You free one with a well-placed bullet.  Clambering inside the small craft, you snatch the paddles and set off as fast as you can go.  Which is to say, slow.  At any moment you expect to see guards boil out of the building, guns blazing, but all you hear is more muted gunfire and the shriek of alarms.  Soon the only sound is the sucking of the oars in the water. 

It is a strange feeling, the mirror-smooth golden water around you, the giant stalactites hanging overhead.  Fifteen minutes pass as you row across the lake.  You head towards the section of the shore with the fewest lights and make an unnoticed landing on an abandoned expanse of paved stone.  You now have four hours left.

Two of those hours are lost in finding your way through the baffling maze of catwalks that leads to the Dungeon of Despair.  You could almost swear the Watch is ticking faster now, the hands racing about the dial in frantic circles.  The Watch is supposed to make you arrive at exactly the right time, isn’t it?  So then why is taking you so damn long to get to dungeon?  You wouldn’t put it past the NF to pull some trick with the Watch too, though it seems like that would break some kind of cosmic rule.  You don’t know what you’re going to do if it was all another trick. 

When you arrive at the dungeon, you are covered with nervous sweat.  You pause for a moment to compose yourself, brushing a hand through your unfamiliar hair and forcing your face into a less grim expression.  This will take diplomacy. 

You walk briskly in through the front door and head straight to the secretary, a graying ESFJ man with large glasses.  “I’m here to inspect the dungeons.” 

“Papers, please.”

Maybe a smooth-talking ESTP could have pulled it off, but you are an ISTP.  Your facade falters. 

Your next move would have been ISTP diplomacy, where you put the barrel of your gun to the man’s head and demand the release of Citizen #287548444 or you kill him dead.  But at that very moment—thank you, Watch—the door at the end of the lobby opens, and Citizen #287548444 herself steps out.  You gape, momentarily unable to believe in so timely a coincidence.  The Watch must work.  It has to.  

You dart over to her, strip off the Watch, and snap it around her wrist.  “Don’t take this off,” you say in a rush.  “Keep it on no matter what.  Promise me you’ll keep it on.”

She stares at you in incomprehension. 

“Promise me!”

“Y-yes—why?”

“See that red hand?  You have to get free by the time it hits the 24, okay?  Do you everything you can to—”

A guard thrusts you away from her.  “Who are you?  What are you doing here?”

You don’t bother to explain.  Instead you head toward the exit, ignoring the guard’s warning call to stop.  You shove open the door.  And freeze like a rat. 

A dragonbat was waiting outside to pick up the ESFJ for her parole hearing.  It pounces on you. 

“Summon the warden,” the dragonbat’s rider orders, sensing that his mount has just sniffed out an Artisan.  “And you—don’t move if you value your life.”


The ESTJ Underlord will not be happy to find you walking free mere hours after being sent to the most secure rehabilitation facility in Cavfoor.   He is, however, pleased to discover that he now has real crimes to charge you with. 

“You are charged with Escape - one count; Enticement to Escape - one count; Illegal Possession of Weapons - two counts; Theft of Small Property, including two guns and a set of clothing - one count; Aiding and Abetting an Aggravated Assault - eighteen counts; Aiding and Abetting a Murder - thirteen counts; Aiding and Abetting the Destruction of Government Property, specifically the burning of an entire rehabilitation facility - one count; Threatening to Commit Bodily Harm on Government Personnel - eleven counts; Kidnapping - one count; Destruction of Government Property, to whit, the lock on a boat - one count; Grand Theft of Property, namely said boat - one count; Operating a Vessel without a License - one count; Failure to Pay Docking Fees - one count; Docking in a Nondesignated Area - one count; Trespassing on Private Property, i.e. the nondesignated area - one count; Impersonating Government Personnel, specifically an ISTJ of the Inspectors Guild - one count; and Summoning a Demon - one count.  How do you plead?”

“Not guilty,” you say from your accustomed position at his feet.  You don’t see why you should be held responsible for other people’s crimes just because you provided the gun that started it all.  Hell, you weren’t even there when the camp burned to the ground!  How is that your fault?  This has been the least violent day of your life, and the ESTJ Underlord ought to be grateful for your self restraint. 

“Let it be recorded that the prisoner refused to confess before being put to death for his heinous crimes.”  The ESTJ Underlord declares, exercising his right to deny you a trial by jury.  “Wrap him in red tape and prepare the dragonbats.”

As you are marched off, the ESFJ is marched in for her parole hearing.  You exchange one last lingering glance with her before being dragged away. 

Behind you the hearing begins.  The ESTJ’s muffled voice reaches you, “As we have been just, let us now be merciful…”


You are chained in a cell and served a last meal.  (You have to admit that the Guardians cook really great last meals.)  When you are finished, the tray, serving utensils and the glass are all carefully accounted for and taken away so that you will not have any makeshift weapons to fight monsters with.  You are left alone to ponder your crimes. 

Instead, you stare at your Watchless wrist, wondering how much time is left.  You think there must be an hour still.  What is happening at the parole hearing?  Is the ESFJ free—are you free?  The INFJ’s words echo in your head, “Tonight the Great Committee will review her case, and tomorrow she will be released on parole for good behavior.”   But tomorrow will be too late.  The Watch has to work tonight. 

Time passes with agonizing slowness, marked only by the rhythm of your feet as you pace the cell.  For once in your life, you would give anything to have a clock. 

At last you hear the deep, distant bong, bong, bong of the Grand Chronolog as it announces the end of the hour.  When the last note has struck and the sound hangs in the air, you smell a familiar reek.  The hackles on the back of your neck rise as the cell fills slowly with oily darkness.

Your time is up, the INFJ announces.  Your heart sinks as it produces a scroll, a pen, and a little jar of blood.  Sign your name and become mine.

“I don’t know how to write my name,” you protest. 

An ‘X’ will suffice.  The bony hands unroll the scroll and pass the pen to you. 

You stand there, staring at the contract that make you a gentle, kind-hearted INFJ for the next twenty-four years.  This is the end. 

You were clever to give the ESFJ the Watch, the INFJ continues, dark pleasure in that soft voice.  But you overlooked one thing.  The Watch will only work for its rightful owner.  Had you been the one at the parole hearing, your paperwork would have been miraculously expedited and you would have been set free in the nick of time.  But as for her…

You hand clenches around the pen.  So your plan failed. 

Sign, the INFJ bids. 

You edge closer to the monster, your pen poised to make the two quick strokes that will seal your doom.  Your palm is covered with sticky sweat.  Reaching over to the jar of blood, you carefully dip in the nib of the pen.  You do this rather at length. 

You must sign.

You whirl and plunge the pen into the INFJ’s sunken eye socket. 

The INFJ screams, clutching its face.  You stab it in the chest.   The bone-wings flap in a fearful clatter.  You stab again and again.  Gouts of foul smoke gush out with each stroke.  The black robe begins to ripple, pulsating with the INFJ’s screeches of agony.  You are still stabbing as the screams dissolve into incoherent bubbling.  At last the fiend slowly dissolves into black feathers, and then into dust. 

It’s dead. 

You collapse into the chair.  A guard is hurrying down the hallway to check out the INFJ’s horrid death rattles.  You quickly stuff the pen, scroll, and jar of blood into your shirt.  When the guard arrives, you are seated calmly at the table, your hair somewhat awry and your breath rapid, but otherwise normal. 

So much for Emily Dickenson. 


Your day of non-violent pacifism has left you refreshed and ready to kill monsters again.  This will be difficult, however, because you have been bound up in ceremonial red tape and smeared with savory sauces to entice the palates of the sacred dragonbats.  ISFJ Assassins of the Priestly Caste chant a dirge as they carry you toward the cage on a bier. 

The arena where you fought those goorilloids has been improved since you were here last.  It is much larger, for one thing, having been expanded to deal with the increasing amount of Artisans who must fight monsters to the death.  Another new feature is a series of floodgates in the shape of tremendous gargoyle heads.  These allow the arena to be flooded and drained at will.  Not only does this make for easy cleaning, it also allows in some of the smaller lake kraken, always a favorite with prisoners.  It always seemed a pity that you didn’t get to fight any aquatic monsters last time you were here. 

If the INFJ was right, the ESFJ should be free by now.  You search the crowd, looking for her, but no such luck.  You do, however, notice a large purple awning set high in the stands.  The ESTJ Underlord himself has come to enjoy your grisly demise.  As you you watch, he presses a control the arm of his chair.  The Cavfoor National Anthem rings out. 

In the center of the arena stands the dragonbat cage.  When the ISFJs set down your bier to open the door, you get a good look at the beasts inside.  All the dragonbats you have seen thus far have been black and brown, but these rarities are white with red eyes—the sacred dragonbats of Byuros and Crassia.  They have wrinkled pink faces, large ears and flattened, upturned noses that give them a horribly cute appearance.  When they see you, their mouths open in a hungry screech, exposing razor-sharp fangs.  There are at least twelve of them.  You are beginning to have an ominous feeling in your stomach. 

To make for audience-friendly viewing, the cage has been constructed with long vertical bars.  They are spaced far enough apart that you could easily crawl through them, but this obvious escape hole has been plugged by the addition of a grill of more narrowly spaced vertical bars that runs around the lower half of the cage.  The grill isn’t enough to strong enough to keep in the dragonbats, but it is certainly strong enough to keep in you.  You eye the top part of the cage where the bars are wide, wondering if you could get up there somehow. 

The crowd roars approval as you are cast into the cage.  Surprisingly, the dragonbats do not pounce.  They hover hungrily about you, wings poised, awaiting the signal they have been trained to wait for.  The ISFJs sing the last notes of the dirge, and lock the door shut.  You lay there, helplessly bound.  Through the bars, the ESTJ is observing the proceedings with a smile of anticipation.  You watch him, waiting for the signal that will mean your demise.  But he is too much of a showman to just kill you right away.  Instead, he touches another control in the arm of his throne.  With a grinding of machinery, the cage begins to rise. 

There is no time to lose.  Wriggling your wrist out of the red tape, you reach under your belt and pull out the pen hidden there.  You proceed to hack at the tape with the metal nib.  Thin though the tape may seem, it is as tough as sinew.  Only with the most energetic efforts are you able to cut the nearest strands loose, but then the bindings unravel like a mummy’s bandages.  You squirm in a puddle of sauce, writhing your way free.  The dragonbats watch, puzzled. 

Finally you flail out the sticky, sauce-covered tape.  Wasting no time, you draw out the vial of blood and wind the red tape around it.  Your fingers are slippery with sauce.  The vial has nothing to tie onto.  You curse as the tape slips over and over again. 

The cage stops moving.  The audience waits breathlessly for the signal.  Praying for a few more seconds, you swing the tied up vial of blood over your head.  The upper crossbars of the cage are thirty feet up.  You release; the vial goes arching through the air, passing over a crossbar.  Momentum sends the projectile winding around the bar.  The tape jerks taut. 

Your next move would have been to clamber up the tapeline until you reached the widely spaced bars at the top of the cage, but at that very moment the ESTJ Underlord gives the signal.  The dragonbats lunge with a screech.    

There is no way to defend yourself from twelve massive monsters at once.  Fangs slash down from all sides, and you are buffeted by pink tongues and screeching and the rank smell of bat breath.  You curl up into a ball, your hands wrapped around your head.  Despite your skill, you would probably have died right there had it not been for two things.  First, the bats aren’t eating you like you expected.  After slashing open your skin, they are lapping up the blood that pours out of your veins.  It feels like being licked by enormous, bloodthirsty dogs.  The second thing that saves you is that the tape around the vial of blood comes loose.  It falls, smashing on the floor of the cage. 

Dragonbats are sonic hunters.  Though denied the opportunity to practice their instinctive hunting behaviors, they cannot help but perk up their ears at the sound of tinkling glass.  It doesn’t hurt that the vial is full of fresh blood, either.  In that brief moment of distraction, you uncurl and throw yourself beneath the legs of the nearest bat. 

The dragonbat feels you pass underneath it.  With a shrill squeak, it whirls about, filling the air with sonic cries as it tries to echolocate you.  But it is difficult to echolocate a small thing when there are twelve large things flapping and echolocating in the same crowded space, and by that time you have reached the hanging line of tape.  You dart up it like a squirrel.  Above the grill, freedom awaits through the wide-spaced bars at the top of the cage. 

The dragonbat spots you just as you reach the top.  With a shriek of outrage, it leaps, wings belling out to catch the air.  You throw yourself between the gaps in the bars, grabbing the top of the grill as you lunge through so that you won’t plummet to your death.  The bat slams into the bars, jarring your hands.  You fall. 

Ninety feet of empty space separates you from the ground.  You catch a glimpse of the hard-packed arena sand, the crowd cheering, the purple awning of the ESTJ Underlord’s private booth.  Arms flailing, you claw for anything solid.  Air, air, air.  This is it—

Your fingers close around the cage.   

The vertical bars and your slippery fingers are a bad combination.  Your momentum carries you down, your hands sliding, until you come to an arm-snapping stop at the crossbar that forms the bottom of the cage.  You hang suspended, your feet dangling.  There is nothing above you but smooth vertical bars.  There is nothing below you but sixty feet of air.  You might be able to climb up the bars, except that you seem to have dislocated your shoulder joints. 

The dragonbats screech and pummel angrily at the bottom of the cage, but they cannot reach you.  Their infuriated efforts make the cage sway, threatening your slick-fingered grasp on the bar.  The crowd murmurs, uncertain what to make of this strange development. 

You stare across the empty space all around you.  What now?  You can’t go up, and you certainly don’t want to go down.  Your gaze turns to the ESTJ Underlord’s booth.  Will he hit whatever switch he has and lower the cage again?  Can you escape when he does that?  Or will he just wait until your arms get tired, then let you fall to your death? 

It won’t be long before that happens.  You are bleeding profusely, and your arms have already gone numb.  Dragonbat saliva contains powerful anticoagulants, and though your wounds are shallow, they don’t scab up—they just keep bleeding and bleeding.  Your increasingly foggy brain wonders whether escaping from the sacred dragonbats is a crime, and if so, what the punishment is.  Probably it involves being fed to the sacred dragonbats.  It’s a good thing you weren’t able to kill them, or the Guardians would really be in a bind.  You laugh, somehow finding this extremely funny.  And then you stop laughing.  It’s a loophole in the law.  If the dragonbats were dead, then you couldn’t be punished for anything

It would be an ideal solution, except for the fact that the dragonbats are very much alive—as evidenced by their continued attempts to smash through the wooden bottom of the cage.  And that gives you an idea.  There are sturdy crossbeams woven in a mesh that run across the cage’s bottom.  The dragonbats are all clustered around your side of the cage, digging vigorously at the floor.  You look over at the ESTJ Underlord’s booth, which appears to be about one hundred feet away as the crow flies. 

Monkeylike, you force yourself to swing hand over hand across the mesh to the far end of the cage.  Your shoulders scream and your numb, slimy fingers threaten to send you plunging to your doom, but you force yourself to move.  You’re not going to hang there helplessly when there’s a chance—however small—that you could save yourself.  “Hey, I’m over here!” you shout at the dragonbats. 

The bats give a startled cheep, then scrabble over to where you are and renew their efforts.  The cage rattles with their attempts to get through the wood.  Your hanging prison is swaying slightly now—not much—but it’s a start. 

You swing back to the other side of the cage and yell, “Now I’m over here!”  Once more the bats rush to get you.  The mass of their bodies slamming against the bars makes the cage rock harder. 

Fourteen more times you make that journey across the bottom of the cage, and each time you think it will be your last.  You screaming arms threaten to give way each time you reach for another bar.  The cage is rocking like a boat in a storm.  Your hands are cold and numb.  Blood is dripping down your leg and pooling in the new leather shoes you got at the rehabilitation camp. 
Your head is spinning, the cage is spinning, and the swinging motion threatens to send you flying off each time the cage reaches the end of its arc. 

You want to fly off, but not yet.  One last time, you cross the mesh, your face contorted into a rictus of agony, your teeth bared.  When you reach the far side, your eyes seek out the ESTJ’s purple awning amid the spinning world.  If you hit that awning, you might survive.  If not, you’ll land among the stone arena seats and snap every bone in your body. 

You have always been good—almost preternaturally good—at judging speeds and distances.  But the spinning, swaying world throws everything into dizzy confusion.  You close your eyes for a second.  Orient yourself.  Plan the moment. 

You open your eyes, the world stabilized. 

“I’m over here!” you scream.  The cage swings up, the dragonbats slam into the bars.  One last bit of momentum gained; you release the crossbar. 

Then you are flying through space.  Below is the crowd, a sea of pale upturned faces and large black eyes.  For a moment, your fogged mind believes you could really flap your arms and fly.  The awning is below.  You are gliding towards it, descending in a perfect arc.  Everything seems to be moving in slow motion.  The ESTJ Underlord stares up at you, his frozen astonishment captured in a moment of time.  You have time to study the exquisite workmanship of the rings on his fingers and the gems set in the goblet he holds in his hand.  He also has a balding spot on his head, which you never noticed before because you are usually down on your knees in his presence.  On the arm of his throne is a control panel.  You take advantage of your slow-moving fall to examine it in detail.  The panel has an up arrow and a down arrow.  There are also six unmarked buttons: blue, red, brown, yellow, green, and black. 

Then time starts again.  The ESTJ leaps out of his throne.  The goblet goes splattering.  You slam into the canopy.  It collapses under you.  The ESTJ Underlord did not make it out in time, and ends up trapped under the awning.  Caroming off the crumpling fabric, you hit the ground hard.  Your momentum sends you rolling down the stone aisle behind the booth, fracturing some of your favorite bones in the process.  But your injuries do not stop you from rising on your hands and knees and forcing yourself to crawl back to the control panel as fast as you can.  The ESTJ’s empty throne is hidden beneath a flap of awning.  You shove it aside. 

Two buttons.  Your eyes scour the panel.   You need two buttons. 

First you slap the down arrow.  The dragonbat cage lowers with a clatter of chains.  Your eyes dart to the blue button—blue for water.  You press it.  The Cavfoor national anthem begins to play.  At the same moment, the ESTJ emerges from underneath the fallen canopy.  Your eyes meet. 

“Guards!” the ESTJ shouts.  He gropes for his ceremonial sword, intending to kill you personally. 

Recovering from their initial shock, the king’s bodyguards come running to protect their lord.  You have one last chance to pick the right button.  Blue for water didn’t work…green for water?  No!  Yellow!  Yellow for water!  You slam the yellow button.  The gargoyle floodgates open.  A great torrent of lakewater spews across the arena sands.  The dragonbat cage vanishes under foam and waves. 

The ESTJ stares, bulge-eyed, his sword forgotten in his hand.  Then he lunges for the control panel.  Alas, the drain system is not as fast as the flood system.  A slimy tentacle breaks the water, and cries of horror rise from the crowd. 

You laugh deliriously as you are bludgeoned into unconsciousness by the guards.  Let the lake monsters deal with the sacred dragonbats.  The anthem plays on as everything goes dark. 


There is nothing in the Sacred Operating Procedures Manual to deal with this situation.  As you had deduced, the charge for harming a sacred dragonbat is to “let the guilty one be thrown to the sacred dragonbats.”  But all the sacred dragonbats are all dead now, and there are no more left anywhere. 

As you lie in a cell, alternating between delirium and unconsciousness, the best lawyers in Cavfoor discuss the problem.   Everyone agrees that a new law should be made for cases in which the prisoner kills the dragonbats, but none of that helps the current situation because the Penal Code specifies that newly made laws cannot be applied retroactively.  In addition, the Guardians make a startling discovery: the wording of the Penal Code merely specifies that the guilty one shall be “thrown” to the sacred dragonbats.  It does not specify that the prisoner must die in the process; the verb is merely “to throw.”  The original writers of the Penal Code obviously assumed that “throw” was synonymous with “die,” but it seems they were wrong.  If you have already been punished for your original crimes by being “thrown” in the cage, then it would seem you have already been fully punished.  You cannot even be retried sans jury, because that would be double jeopardy. 

That still leaves the two new crimes you committed, i.e. murdering the sacred dragonbats and attempting to assassinate the king.  However, the mandatory sentencing guidelines state that you can only be given the most stringent punishment possible for these deeds: the punishment is, of course, to be fed to the sacred dragonbats. 

The Manual will be searched from front to back for some way out of the conundrum, but each new idea will run afoul of some previous legal precedent.  At last, the best of the lawyers will be forced to admit that they are stumped.  You tried to murder the king and you drowned the divine avatars of Byuros and Crassia, yet there seems to be no legal way to punish you.  

There is only one hope left to avert a horrifying miscarriage of justice—that you will die naturally from your wounds.  You will receive no medical care whatsoever, though you will grudgingly be provided with food and water in accordance with the Manual’s requirements.  ISFJ Assassin doctors come to check your vital signs every hour, praying fervently that you will die, but you cling to life as though every cell in your body is obsessed with overturning ten thousand years of legal precedent.  In your delirium, you moan, “Not guilty!  Not guilty!”

A few tense weeks pass.  Finally, it will become apparent that you plan to inconvenience everyone by not shuffling off the mortal coil.  There is weeping and gnashing of teeth. 

Since you seem to be in your right mind once more, you are dragged before the Great Committee.  As you kneel in your usual spot, too tired to do anything but stare at the patterns in the carpet, they argue over what should be done with you.  Half of the Committee has been driven over the edge: damn the rules, you need to die.  The other half of the Committee also wants you dead, but insists that a legal way be found—you are a citizen now, after all, and killing you wrongfully would in itself be wrong.  Much debate ensues; finally it becomes obvious that the Committee is split.  The deciding vote is left to the ESTJ Underlord. 

You don’t know it as you sit there, examining a loose thread in the carpet, but this is the greatest test your foe has ever faced.  All his life, the ESTJ Underlord believed that he would obey the law and do the right thing, no matter how unpopular it made him.  Now he faces the choice between your lawless brand of vigilante justice and his own civilized code of laws.  He tries to tell himself that you are a special case, that you tried to assassinate him, and ruined the entire Guardian way of life.  Besides, he thinks, he is the representative of his people, and the people all want you dead.  The priests want you dead too, for that matter, and even the dragonbats seem to loathe you, brainless beasts though they are.  He can only think of one person in the whole Cavern who doesn’t want you dead, and she waits anxiously outside to learn your fate.  By every unwritten rule that was ever made, you ought to die.

But.

The ESTJ Underlord clenches the arms of his throne with white-knuckled hands.  Sweat rolls from his brow; he stares at you like a dragonbat awaiting the signal to seize prey.  The Committee watches him, afraid, hopeful.  Will the ESTJ give in to the base desires of their hearts, or will he hold firm to their dearest principles?  The fate of everything hangs in the balance. 

The ESTJ stands abruptly.  The scraping of his chair makes you look up from the carpet fibers. 

“There is no punishment for his crimes,” he grates out. 

There is a reason that your worst enemy will one day be surnamed "the Great."  His subjects will remember him as the king who had such high regard for the law that he allowed the assassin who tried to murder him to go free rather than violate a single line of the Manual.  Truly, an example to inspire all Guardians.  But you'll always think of him as the idiot who let you get away scotch free. 

When you realize you have won, a victory band erupts in your head just for you.  Freedom!   You aren’t in any condition to be on your feet, but you manage to stagger up anyway.  The Committee erupts into dissent that goes for a full ten minutes.  As for the ESTJ, the histories won’t tell how he kept staring at you, fingering his ceremonial sword. 

At last the ESTJ Underlord gets himself and the Committee under control.  He has just remembered something.  “You never completed your rehabilitation.”

You stand there, swaying, and feel your hard won victory slipping through your fingers.  You’re in no condition for another escape.  But you raise your chin defiantly.  “I'll never be rehabilitated.”

The ESTJ Underlord scowls.  He cannot help but think about how embarrassing it would be if you were to escape a second time, and how inevitable it is that you will.  But then a thought occurs to him.  The ESFJ.  It is not obvious what the connection between you two is, but it is clear from your repeated visits to her that she must have something to do with the whole mess.  It also occurs to him that she is a parolee, and must remain within the Cavern.  You were probably trying to get her to flee to the sur-fas with you—an obvious flight risk situation.  And, since parole can be granted or revoked at the liberty of the Parole Committee, which is always open to his input, and since you apparently care about the ESFJ… 

He has found your one weakness.  Smiling with fiendish satisfaction, he stands.  “We shall discuss the matter of your rehabilitation in my private office.”

You are hustled to his office by a small crowd of guards.  Soon the ESFJ Bunkerdragon is brought in.  She is still wearing the Watch, but it looks dead now.  The hands no longer glow and the smell is gone. 

The ESTJ Underlord turns to the ESFJ and begins to use (you would say “abuse”) the discretionary power he has to make recommendations to the Parole Committee.  “Recently I granted parole to you in acknowledgment of your ten years of good behavior.  I believed that you would not try to escape.”  He turns to you and glowers.  “It appears I was wrong.  This man tried to unlawfully set you at liberty.”

You feel the trap closing around you, but you are helpless to avoid it.  “This wasn’t her fault.  She never tried to escape.  It was all my idea.”

“Nonetheless,” the ESTJ says.  “The fact remains that the temptation is there.  One day she may decide to break her parole and flee with you.  Under such conditions parole is too risky to grant; I shall recommend that the Parole Committee review her case and have her sent back to the dungeon to serve out her sentence.”

Your hands clench into fists.  You know exactly what this means.  “Damn you.”

The ESTJ leans forward, his fingers pressing into the oiled wood of his desk.  “You will go to camp and you will be rehabilitated.  And if you successfully complete the program without escaping, then I shall consider that you have learned your lesson and will no longer interfere with parolees.  You will stay on the sur-fas and never return to Cavfoor.  Is that understood?”

You look at the ESFJ, her face tight with worry.  You look back at the ESTJ Underlord, looming over you like a mountain, waiting for your response.  Something proud in you crumbles.  “Yes—”

“No!” cries the ESFJ.  “I’ll go back to the dungeon and serve out my sentence.  Don’t hurt him.”

“Be quiet,” you growl.  “I—”

“No,” she says.  “If you go to the camp then—I’ll behave terribly.  So don’t even bother going at all.  You can’t keep me out of prison.”

You stare at her in exasperation.  No words can express how maddening this situation is.  And then things take an unexpected turn. 

The ESFJ turns to the ESTJ Underlord.  “Milord, this man has committed great crimes, it is true.  But you are merciful.  If he is to be rehabilitated, then let me be the one to do it.”

“You?” the ESTJ snorts. 

“You?” you echo incredulously. 

“I will keep him from escaping,” the ESFJ promises.  “He will learn to be a good citizen, and trouble you no more.  Let me teach him to obey the wisdom of the Manual.”

You are taken aback.  You are even more stunned when the ESTJ Underlord does not immediately dismiss her suggestion.  A practical man, he quickly grasps the advantages of the proposal.  If he cannot use her to blackmail you, then perhaps he can use her as a leash instead.  He dislikes the obvious implication that he is giving you what you want, but at this point he doesn’t have many choices.  After all, he already threw you into the most secure rehabilitation camp in the whole empire, and within the hour you were walking free and the camp was burning.  What’s he going to do now, throw you into the second most secure camp in the empire?

“Very well,” he says, with a noble, merciful gesture of his hand.  “You shall teach him to behave like a civilized being.  I appoint you as his personal rehabilitation officer.”

You gawk at the ESFJ, who smiles benevolently at you. 

What just happened?


You sign papers.  The ESFJ signs papers.  The processing of your forms moves with extraordinary speed; everyone is anxious to get you out of Cavfoor as soon as possible.  The ESFJ weeps as she bids her family goodbye.  The ESTJ is glad to see the last of you; he makes an executive decree officially banning you from his underground empire forever. 

Then it is over.  The ESFJ is installed in a small house on the surface; you are to report to her for training on Monday morning at 8 am.  (It is late Sunday afternoon now.) 

Upon being released at the surface, you head straight to the bar for a drink.  This isn’t particularly wise since you are half dead and can barely walk, but you need it

Your unexpected arrival is greeted with a roar of approval.  The others have thrilled to your exploits on their little radios.  Now everyone wants to be the one to buy your drink and hear your story.  You swiftly get the drinks you wanted, then another, and another, and another, and then you lose count.  You could probably have passed out with a fresh drink in your hand, but the loud crowd of people makes your head feel like it is full of stinging bees, and you feel a sudden, urgent need for silence.  Knocking back one final shot, you totter off despite their protests. 

The cool, quiet night soothes the angry beehive in your head.  You don’t have any money for a bed, so you curl up under a convenient pine tree and go to sleep.  That night you dream strange dreams.  The ESFJ (in your dream she is your wife) puts a Watch around your neck.  “Please hold still while I civilize you,” she says, tightening it.  You allow this, though you are now choking to death.  “Much better now!” she exclaims.  Then her eyes become red embers and her flesh wastes into a familiar skull-like visage.  “Now you shall be my slave for twenty-four years.” 

At noon, you turn up at your own personal rehabilitation camp, haggard and hung over.  There are sap-covered pine needles stuck in your hair. 

“Sorry,” you mumble as you walk inside, your head pounding. 

For weeks, the ESFJ watched helplessly from afar as you lay delirious in your cell, hovering between life and death.  Now, when she sees your condition, she assumes the worst.  “Sit down while I take your temperature.”

“It’s nothing.”

But she insists.  Your temperature is slightly elevated, and this confirms all her fears.  Despite your protests of health and vitality, you are put on an overstuffed couch and covered with a blanket. 

“Rest while I make you some soup,” she says. 

Your half-dead body decides that it likes this treatment better than your alcohol-and-pine-tree therapy.  By the time the soup is done you are fast asleep.  There are no dreams this time. 

When the ESFJ learns you are “homeless” she will insist that you to stay on her couch.  You will spend the next couple days eating and sleeping.  Your body craves sleep.  You do make plans to go find an inn, but the ESFJ has somehow gotten the impression from talking to you that inns are places where people go to be stabbed in their sleep, which is not all that far from the truth in your experience.  At any rate, there will always be a pan of cookies fresh out of the oven just as you are about to leave, and it would be a shame to miss that.  Much to your relief, she does not try to rehabilitate you. 

It would have been nice to pick up where you left off with that kiss in the visiting room, but somehow that is no longer possible.  Though you were willing to risk anything to save her, there is now a part of you that is ready to bolt to the ends of the earth at the slightest hint of entrapment.  Though the ESFJ has dutifully waited ten years for you to return, she is horrified by the prospect of spending the rest of her life on the surface under the bottomless blue sky and searing sun.  The unspoken question hanging in the air is, “Can it work?” But neither of you asks the fatal question aloud.  Instead you talk of food, hats and the weather. 

You also compare notes on what happened after you clapped the Watch on her wrist.  “The most extraordinary thing happened,” the ESFJ says wonderingly.  “All the Parole Committee members had to sign off on my release form, and they all turned up at the Hearing Chamber just minutes before the session closed.  No one called them—they all just appeared on their own.  Since everyone was there, they signed the paperwork and released me on the spot.  Such a strange coincidence!” 

Her version does not tally with the story the INFJ told you about the Watch only working for its rightful owner.  You conclude that the INFJ was a dirty liar, though if you were to look more closely into the precise phrasing the creature used you would realize that it merely implied that you had to give up your soul without actually stating that you had lost the bet.  Oh well, you killed it anyway. 

“I like what you‘ve done with your hair,” the ESFJ says, running her hand across your neatly clipped follicles. 

An ironic smile tugs up the corner of your mouth.  “I thought you might.”  What the hell; maybe you’ll leave it this way. 

Bit by bit, the wall between you and the ESFJ comes down.  One fine summer night, you coax her outside to introduce her to the wonders of the surface.  With her large eyes she can see perfectly in the blackness.  You show her trees, grass, flowers, stars and the fluttering shapes of bats.  (She finds these teeny versions of dragonbats utterly adorable.)  There is only one hitch, when you have to kill a gotcha-squirrel, but otherwise everything goes remarkably well, and the squirrel will end up on the dinner table tomorrow.  “Maybe the sur-fas isn’t as bad as I thought,” the ESFJ remarks when you get back home.  You smile, silently grateful that you didn’t run into any skullbears, zombies, bandits, or cannibals.  Perhaps it is time that you gave her some shooting lessons. 

The days turn into weeks, and the weeks turn into months.  Fall comes, and she delights in the colorful leaves.  On a crisp evening, as the autumn moon hang in the sky, you help her rake the leaves off the lawn.  Not that you have anything against leaves, but she finds them untidy.  Afterward you sit on the porch together.  It is a beautiful evening.  You wrap your arm around her, and she leans against you.  Bat flutter about, hunting, and somewhere an owl hoots.  Impulsively you kiss her.  It isn’t a long kiss.  It is more of a short, brave, roll of the dice.  She smiles at you, surprised.  Then she snuggles deeper into your arms.  Before long you will share another kiss, this time longer and surer and hungrier. 

Your fellow Artisans will know exactly what’s going on when you turn up at the bar and buy everyone a drink—or so they will assume. 

“Just look at him grin,” says the ESTP Raider, pointing at your face. 

You aren’t actually smiling, but your perpetual scowl has softened to the point that is noticeable.  On you, it looks like a smile. 

You are prompted for the whole story, but of course you never talk about your personal life because this would spoil your aura of mystery (which is beginning to wear thin because you have stayed in the same place too long).  So they happily fill in all the details from their lurid imaginations.

Though your relationship with the ESFJ will progress rapidly from now on, it will not progress to the point they imagine for some time.  You and her will enjoy long moonlit walks and random moments of passion in the kitchen.  Something in you is deeply satisfied when she lays her head on your shoulder, and when she kisses you, running her hands through your neatly brushed hair, your heart goes wild.  Nonetheless, you will continue sleeping on the couch—though not by choice. 

Next summer you and her will become espoused.  You propose to the ESFJ, and she accepts.  You think that you will get married that very night.  But to a Guardian, the simple, practical way of doing things is obviously impossible.  There must be a ceremony, and an official of the Priest caste, and a guest list, and fungus-girls, and a veritable host of forms that must be signed in triplicate.  After you hear the ESFJ’s full description of the wedding process, you will understand why Guardians wait so long to get married.  (And if you think this is bad, you should see the divorce ceremony.)  But obviously things are not going to move forward unless the nuptial rite of passage is endured, so you grit your teeth and squeeze into a ceremonial robe. 

It’s worth it. 

You and the ESFJ go on a wonderful honeymoon to an alpine town tucked away in the Blasted Mountains.  For two weeks, you enjoy glorious scenery and long, passionate nights.  You loved her before; now you become absolutely mad for her.  Why on earth didn’t you do this sooner?  You hasten to make up for lost time.  The ESFJ shows you what you were missing those ten years you spent apart. 

After two weeks of wedded bliss, you return home as a married man.  You are snared at last, but the snare is formed of a pair of loving arms, and you are glad to be caught.  Your heart belongs to her now, and hers to you. 

Although the townsfolk knew this was coming, they will still be startled to see you, the region’s most notorious loner, accompanied by your new wife.  You will endure quite a bit of teasing about how you have settled down and become civilized.  It will be difficult to defend yourself from these charges, since they are sort of true. 

The married life will mean compromises as well as pleasures, of course, not to mention the whole rehabilitation thing.  Under her tutelage, you will learn to vacuum, put your dishes away in the sink, and fold laundry.  For her part, she will learn how to fire a revolver, skin a skullbear, and dig a shallow grave. 

As your personal rehabilitation officer, your wife dutifully sends off a report to the Rehabilitation Committee in which she details her small triumphs over your Artisan nature.  In October’s report, she writes, “Today the rehabilitee picked up all the empty bullet casings off the lawn without being asked.”  As to how those bullet casings came to be on the lawn, this is a matter she decides to leave undescribed. 

Every year you will have to go the Bureau of Reformation to take the rehabilitation exam.  If you passed, you would theoretically be considered a legal Judger and could be “released” from your one-man rehab camp.  Eager to shed the humiliation of your yearly pilgrimage, you do the best you can to get a passing score.  The other Artisans laugh when they see you dressed up in your best clothes, hurrying off to another year of predictable failure. 

“Good luck!” they’ll shout after you.  “Hurry up or you’ll be late!”

Although you will do well on the oral part of the exam—you have memorized the right answers, at least—you will always botch the practical somehow.  Sometimes you will come close to passing, though. 

“That wasn’t even one minute!” you scream at the proctor.  “It was 45 seconds!  I saw it on the clock!  45 seconds!”

“It isn’t the degree of your tardiness that is at issue, sir,” the proctor says coldly.  “The fact remains, you were late.”

“I ran all the way here!  How is it my fault if the damn alarm clock goes dead the day of the damn test?”

“You should set up a monthly schedule to change the batteries so that it won’t happen again.  I recommend the first of the month.  Let’s work on that for next time, hmm?”

Seething with rage, you reach over, grab his pencil, and snap it in half—thereby changing your almost-passing score to a perfect zero. 

Your fellow SPs will mistakenly believe that you fail the test on purpose as a way of sticking it to the man, never guessing at how embarrassing you find the whole experience.  Though they themselves love refined sugar and scented body lotion, they are pleased that someone is still resisting on their behalf.  Your example is an inspiration. 

When you return home after the exam—venting your wrath on a variety of hapless inanimate objects along the way—you find that your wife has fixed your favorite meal in anticipation of your inevitable failure.  (She at least understands how much you hate it.)

“Oh well, maybe next year,” she will say sympathetically, massaging your iron-tight shoulders. 

But despite your best efforts, you will go to your grave unrehabilitated. 

Speaking of graves.  One of the problems with living in the same place at length is that everybody will know where to find you.  Young fools will regularly turn up on your doorstep to challenge you to a shoot out in hopes of proving that they are faster. 

“Scram,” you say.  “My wife doesn’t like blood on the lawn.”

But of course they won’t listen, and soon the town cemetery will have to build an expansion.  Fittingly enough, they will name it after you. 

Since the small salary your wife earns for rehabilitating you is not enough to keep up the house and pay the neighborhood kids who wash the lawn, you will have to get a regular job.  Before, you just wandered from town to town ridding the world for scum for free, but now you will do it on a commission basis. 

“There’s a thug and his dirty gang of—”

“Fine.  I’ll take payment up front.”

You will then go away for a few weeks, kill everyone who needs it, and head back home again.  It’s nice to have a home to go back to afterward.  When your wife throws her arms around you in a hug that makes you feel warm and snug inside, you will wonder what you ever did to deserve a woman like her. 

However, your way of earning a living will cause a nightmare at tax time.  Besides the usual difficulties about your date of birth and lack of a last name, there will also be the problem of fitting your business into one of the occupational categories listed in that little book the tax preparation specialist brings to your appointment. 

“Occupation?” the tax specialist asks, pen poised above the first of many tax forms.

“I get rid of troublemakers,” you say, hoping he will not ask you to elaborate further.

Silence.  “What job category would you say that falls into, sir?”

“Bounty hunter?”

The tax preparer flips through his little book.  “Baker, Boutique Owner, Bricklayer…No, that’s not on the list.” 

“Try gun for hire.”

Flip flip flip.  “No.”

“What about just ‘gunslinger?’” 

“What exactly do you do for a living, sir?”

Eventually it will be decided that you are a professional Executioner, and your business is a sole proprietorship.  This will cause all kinds of difficulties, because then you will have to get a business license and go through training to become certified as an Executioner, which is the dumbest thing you have heard of in your life.  You will pass the training course, though, and receive a certificate which your wife will frame and hang up on the wall.  When her friends come over she will show it to them and say proudly, “My husband has a real job now.  He’s a licensed Executioner.”  (Real job?)

You will also have to start collecting receipts of all your business expenses, which will truly be a pain in the neck.  Thirsty after a hard day’s work, you will plant yourself at the bar and say, “Give me a drink.  And a receipt.”

The bartender gives you a funny look, then growls, “A receipt?  We don’t sell those here.  Just whiskey.  You want a drink or not?”

It doesn’t help that you’re wearing a rehabilitee watch and sporting a Guardian haircut.  However, those who think to make sport of you will swiftly regret it. 

Pretty soon you and your wife will have kids, and this will keep you home more.  Your first three children are all boys and all Guardians: an ESFJ Bunkerdragon, an ISTJ Sentinel, and an ESTJ Underlord, your firstborn.  (How’s that for irony?) 

“What do you want to do when you grow up?” you ask your children as you help them kill imaginary villains with squirt guns. 

“I want to apply for the Police Guild,” says the ever serious ISTJ. 

“I want to be a prison guard like mommy was,” the ESFJ Bunkerdragon says eagerly. 

“I want to feed bad people to the dragonbats,” the ESTJ declares. 

“Are you sure you don’t just want to shoot them?” you suggest hopefully. 

“No, that wouldn’t be right, daddy.  See, it says in the Manual—”

Just as you are giving up hope of getting an Artisan child, number four will come along, a sweet little ESTP girl who will make you wish all your children were Guardians.  (“Daddy, look!  I caught a big snake under my sand bucket!”  “I don’t know how the wall got burned like that.  Maybe it was lightning.”  “I don’t want a squirt gun.  I want a real gun like yours.”  “Why should I have to learn to read when you don’t?”)

When you get back from one of your business trips, you wife will say, “Let me tell you what your daughter did while you were gone—”

But you’ll love the little hellion anyhow.  Someday you will take her with you on your business trips and teach her how to solve the problems of small towns. 

If the other Artisans thought you were old before, they will now consider you a veritable Methuselah.  As the years pass, your hair will start going grey.  You’ll take naps and you probably need glasses, but you’ll just keep on sending people to the cemetery, your hand as fast as ever.  Some of the SPs will get it into their heads that you’ll just live on and on forever, but time will prove them wrong.  The day after your wife dies in her sleep from the traditional Guardian heart attack, you will also die.  Everybody’s gotta go sometime. 

The undertaker, grateful for all the business you have sent his way over the years, will outdo himself on your corpse.  The fellow who cuts the tombstones will likewise be grateful, and will pick out one of his best headstones for you.  Such will be his excitement at getting the chance to inscribe something other than “Killed by the ISTP” on a stone that he will write you a whole eight line epitaph. 

Your wife won’t have a headstone because everyone assumes she will be interred in a crypt down in Cavfoor with her ancestors.  Indeed, your Guardian children had hoped to bury you down there too, but your old nemesis, the ESTJ Underlord, finds out about their plan and issues a proclamation that your remains shall not rest in the sacred soil of Cavfoor.  He feels wonderful about your death, by the way.  Knowing his life’s work is complete, he wraps up his affairs and goes smiling to his well-deserved heart attack in bed.  He was even older than you. 

For awhile, the funeral situation gets dicey.  Your wife’s family (who never approved of you) is insistent that she be laid to rest in Cavfoor.  But though your Guardian children understand this and even agree that she should be buried with her kin, they hate to see their mother and father parted after a lifetime together.  Eventually, they will settle on a compromise.  You and the ESFJ will have a double funeral ceremony on the surface together, but each of you will go to your own resting place.  The afterlife paperwork will be carefully managed to ensure that you are reunited together in the next world. 

When it comes time to put you under, everyone from town will come out to see you off, bringing with them an appropriate amount of alcohol and ammunition to keep things lively.  All the Guardian children and grandchildren who survived you will also be there, dressed in somber black mourning garb.  Your ESTP daughter will be missing, to the dismay of the family.  She’s apparently off in South America somewhere.

Ignoring the ruckus as best he can, an ISFJ Assassin of the Priestly Caste begins to write up your Application for Entry to the Afterlife. 

“Occupation of the deceased?” he asks your firstborn son. 

This will be the start of a funerary fiasco that will only get worse when the ISFJ discovers your lack of a birth date and last name.  But finally, after six hours in the sweltering sun, things will be resolved.  The nightmare of dealing with your paperwork will be passed off to Byuros and Crassia with a sigh of relief from the living.

At the close of the funeral, your ESTJ son, with tears in his eyes, will staple your Afterlife Application to your wife’s so that you can file jointly and be together forever.  A touching send off.  The folks from the Bureau of Reformation will be there too, to make sure you are buried deep.  Reliable witnesses will report that they got drunk afterward and danced on your grave, but can such a thing be believed? 

All the fuss being made over you would annoy you had you been alive, but fortunately you’re dead. 

The only person who doesn’t attend is your daughter.  Upon learning that you have perished, she will hurry back to avenge your dead only to discover that you died in bed of natural causes (chiefly alcohol and cigarettes).  By this point you’ve been buried for two months and there’s grass on your grave.  She is disappointed that she missed your funeral. 

For a while, she stands at your graveside, remembering the good times.  Then she strikes a match on your headstone and lights up.  The match is carelessly discarded in a convenient patch of grass.  Finally, hitching up her gun belt, she bends down and laboriously sounds out the words the tombstone maker wrote. 

 

Here lies the ISTP

He filled up this graveyard,

Now he’s stiff himself.

Nobody killed him,

He just up and died.

He was never rehabilitated,

And he never missed.

We’ll miss him, though.

RIP