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In the collected works of Cordwainer Smith, there are only six short stories that are not manifestly part of his Instrumentality cycle. The Fife of Bodhidharma, a very short story at eight pages long, is one of those.

The story deals only slightly with Bodhidharma, and Cordwainer Smith, for a professor of Chinese history; doesn't seem to be too accurate about the life and times of the First Patriarch.

The story begins in Harrapa, where a metallurgist accidentally creates a telepathic flute, a "chancy prediscovery of psionic powers with sonic triggering". Unfortunatly, this killed the inventor, and after a "short, terrible period of use and abuse" the tiny flute is hidden away.

It was eventually rediscovered, and being recognized as a holy object of strange power, was given to Bodhidharma right before his voyage to China. After Bodhidharma crosses the Himalyas and enters the Gobi Desert (historically, Bodhidharma probably came to China by sea), he is beset on by weird beasts, souls reincarnated in the bodies of vicious animals. Before they can attack him, Bodhidharma plays his flute, which heightens their personality traits. Soon, the animals attack themselves, leaving Bodhidharma to pass.

The fife was buried with him in his tomb, where it was discovered by a German explorer, who brought it to Germany, where it was accidentally discovered by a Hitler Youth in 1945. He blows it, finds inner peace, and then blows it again, and becomes an even more fanatical Nazi. He attacks a truck caravan, thinking it is an allied tank column.

One of the people in the caravan is a rocket scientist, who later works for the United States on their space program. Right before he is to send a rocket into orbit, a rocket meant to broadcast radio waves all over the world. Right before the rocket goes up, he notices a part is missing, and places the mystical fife, the one able to either calm humans, or drive them to insanity, into the satellite. The implication is, it will deliver its sound all over the globe.

The story itself is not appreciably longer then that synopsis, and although the story doesn't have the vintage Cordwainer Smith psychological profiling, or any futuristic cyborg technology. On the other hand, we do have a brief, world spanning story that also mentions Bodhidharma. And being that this is Cordwainer Smith, there must be a deeper meaning.

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