"...the space defense initiative drove the USSR bankrupt, and it originated at my house in Tarzana."
- Larry Niven
||A complex musical instrument.
|On his lap in crumpled leather, It might have been a harp, it might have been a computer. With inductance surfaces like a theremin, with frets like a guitar, down one side were short drones as on a sitar. On the other were the extended bass drones of a guitarina. Parts were carved from rosewood. Parts were cast from stainless steel. It had insets of black plastic, and was cushioned with plush...
Sunlight ran the polished grain, flashed in the steel. At the table the workmen tapped their coins, then squinted. Leo nodded to them. They put the money on the greasy boards and, puzzled, left the boat.
Leo did something with the controls. There was a clear ringing; the air shivered; and cutting out the olid odor of wet rope and tar was the scent of ... orchids? A long time ago, perhaps at five or six, the Mouse had smelled them wild in the fields edging a road. (Then, there had been a big woman in a print skirt who may have been Mama, and three barefoot, heavily mustachioed men, one of whom he had been told to call Papa; but that was in some other country ...) Yes, orchids.
"It works!" rasped the Mouse.
Leo nodded. "Better than the one I used to have. The Illyrion battery almost brand-new is. Those things I on the boat used to play, can still play, I wonder." His face furrowed. "Not too good going to be is. Out of practice am." Embarrassment rearranged Leo's features into an expression the Mouse had never seen. Leo's hand closed to the tuning haft...
"Can you show me how to play it?' Then he did something brave. He took it, gently, from Leo's lap. And fear was an emotion that the Mouse had lived with all his short, shattered life.
Reaching, however, he began the intricate process of becoming himself. Wondering, the Mouse turned the sensory-syrynx around and around.
by Samuel R. Delany.
Published by Doubleday in 1968
Additional resources -
Compare to the visi-sonor from Foundation and Empire (1952) by Isaac Asimov and the stimic from The Moon Moth (1976) by Jack Vance.
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