} Well, the Oracle's tastes generally run to mechandise not
} available at malls, but... Hm. I haven't been down to one
} of those places in I don't know how long. Interesting socio-
} pathological study, and all... aw, sure. I'll just port
} down into one and have a look around.
} (Scene: The Mall. Colored lights, enormous plastic Santas,
} twenty foot garlands of fake holly, and all the rest. The
} PA system is pumping out a 101 Strings version of 'Silent
} Night'. With a grumble, the Oracle waves a finger; suddenly,
} the music changes to what sounds like 'Christmas Time in the
} City' by The Clash. One or two of the thousands of shoppers
} briefly raise their heads quizzically, then continue shuffling
} through the area.)
} Much better. Now, what have we here? So much to inspect...
} Ah, a bookstore. Seat of learning, and all that.
} (Oracle enters 'Books B Us', and approaches the crowded
} counter. People instinctively back away, until only the Oracle
} and the young sales girl are left.)
} Oracle: Good evening, my dear, do you happen to have a copy
} of The Nineteen Thousand Times of Moira The Incredible?
} Salesgirl (with a blank look): The What of Who?
} (Oracle bends across counter to whisper in her ear): You know,
} the book about the lady who... ...
} Salesgirl: Why, you, <SLAP> what kind of store do you think
} this is, anyway?!?
} Oracle (with a sigh of satisfaction): Nice to know some of them
} still have the old spunk. Listen, dear, have you ever read
} Leda and the Swan? Consider my plumage...
} (Salesgirl shrieks, and bolts for the rear of the store. The
} sound of a telephone being frantically dialed.)
} Oracle: Oh well, books are so easy, we need something with a
} little more oomph anyway. (Exits bookstore)
} (Back out in the commons, the Oracle sees a pet shop, and with
} a murmer of anticipation, threads his way through the hordes.
} Inside the shop, Oracle finds a terrarium containing a beautiful,
} electric green grass snake, and carries the glass case up to
} the man behind the counter.)
} Oracle: Say, do you happen to have any of this little fellow's
} big brothers in here for sale?
} Salesman: This is the only snake we have in the store, sir,
} could I interest you in a kitten or a puppy?
} Oracle: Only for feeding purposes. Hm, pity. (brightens) I know,
} I can just divert a little energy here, move some DNA over there,
} and presto!
} (The grass snake begins to grow; in a matter of seconds, it fills
} the glass case, which shatters. The snake continues to grow, filling
} the top of the counter; its head becomes more triangular, and its
} eyes settle on the salesclerk, glittering hungrily. The salesclerk's
} eyes, in the meantime, are the size of hubcaps. He stutters for a
} moment, then regains his composure and turns angrily to the Oracle.)
} Salesclerk: I don't know what kind of stunt you're pulling, bud,
} but if you don't put the grass snake back and get your ass out of
} here, I'll see that it lands in the can tonight!
} Oracle: Is that any way to treat a potential customer? (Looks at the
} now eighteen feet-long python, and waves his hand negligently
} towards the clerk.) I know you're hungry, little one, so go ahead -
} (The clerk is immobile, the python is hungry; what follows is
} inevitable. As the Oracle walks out of the shop, he again flicks
} a finger, and all the cages and cases in the shop spring open.)
} (Oracle walks through the mall, unable to find any other shop which
} commands his attention. By the time he has spent ten minutes walking,
} people are streaming by, wide-eyed, a voice over the PA is blaring
} something about remaining calm, and security guards are swarming in
} every direction. A rabbit streaks past, hotly pursued by a bobcat. The
} Oracle decides he's had enough, and returns to his cyberoffice.)
} Well, hell. That was a severe bust. But if you must go to the mall,
} tell you what I'll do. I don't want to spoil ALL the fun of present
} shopping, so here are some sure-fire hints for each of your pals.
} Happy Hunting!
} Pete: Alternative Pharmacology
} Steve: Explosives
} Dan: Sensory Deprivation Aids
} Kim: Interstellar Divination Techniques
} Melanie: Non-slimy Reptiles
} Jason: Bela Lugosi Movies
} Michelle: Fishnet
} You owe the Oracle two hours of video tape from the security
} archives of The Mall, shot today.