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02 : New Faces

The first contact with a new species in the unknown region of space was always going to be a special event. Two weeks into the voyage home, Star Dancer's detectors found space traffic and predicted its general direction of travel. The ship eventually arrived in orbit around Arlsworld, a mining and resupply centre and a two-town planet. Both settlements were located on the planet's largest island.
   Arlsworld looked ripe for serious colonization sometime in the future but the island was sufficient for the needs of the moment. After some initial nervousness, the locals accepted that the visitors were not a threat. The inhabitants of the planet were the same general shape as Star Dancer's crew when viewed from a short distance and their level of technology was much the same, on average.
   The usual biocompatibility tests took about one and a half times the usual time. Then the administrators at Bikat Arlsville, the major settlement, eventually agreed that neither race was a particular threat to the other and Captain Fregath authorized shore leave for her crew. By this time, the ships linguists, Lts. Daniel O'Neill and Mary Dean, had unravelled the local's language with the aid of the colony's resident linguist.
   The usual trading also went ahead. There were edible foodstuffs on the island which could be traded for the usual neutral cultural information; books, music and so on. The visit to Arlsworld, the captain felt, would be a valuable return to normal expedition routines while her ship was still a long way from home.
   The chief science officer, Sub-Commander Donna Andersin, made a point of asking her opposite number at Arlsville if his people had access to new theoretical or practical information on the distorting effects of black holes. Unfortunately, Star Dancer's experience was entirely new to Dr. Hhreth.

Lt. Draxt was sitting at a workstation in Detector Control, which was a quiet refuge at that point, when Sub-Lt. Frand caught up with him. As usual, there had been a draw for places on the early shore-leave parties. Frand wanted to tell Draxt that he was a winner; that he and the companion of his choice had places on the second rover.
   "Strange. I don't remember putting my name down," Draxt said with a frown.
   "You didn't. I did," Frand admitted. "So if you're not bothered about going ashore, is it okay if I take your place?"
   "I suppose such deviousness deserves a reward," laughed Draxt. "Did you put Merrith's name down, too? To give yourself three chances at an early rover?"
   "Sounds a good idea." Frand admitted nothing. "So it's okay?"
   Draxt shrugged. "Enjoy yourself."
   "You don't mind?"
   "Yeah, I mind terribly. Is that what you want me to say?"
   "I just expected you to be more indignant about it. Taking your name in vain, and all that. So anyway, I owe you one."
   "Right. Have a good time. If it's possible on a dump like that."
   Frand left the mathematician to his thoughts with a feeling of satisfaction. It was well known that the Mathies were not at all bothered about visiting new places but Frand had been wondering if Draxt would make an exception in unusual circumstances. As usual, Draxt seemed quite content to do his exploring from orbit.

Not going 'ashore' turned out not to be an option for Draxt. He tried to argue when Chief Science Officer Andersin told him that all officers, apart from duty crew, had been ordered to attend an official reception at Arlsville on Star Dancer's fourth day in orbit. Andersin just smiled at him, letting Draxt know that she had heard his objections before and she was not impressed by them.
   As usual, the Mathies exhausted the possibilities of the reception very quickly and spent most of the time throwing theories at each other. Afterwards, as usual, the Captain sounded off about antisocial behaviour by certain officers and threatened to organize compulsory 'social graces' classes; which created a general feeling that things were well on the way to being back to normal.

Star Dancer resumed its course for home after a six-day break and with the collective morale lifted. The first contact had been a success and there was a sense aboard the exploration vessel that the comforting routines of normal life had been restored even though they were in abnormal circumstances.
   Lt. Draxt was in his quarters with music playing softly when Sub-Commander Orcand visited him to ask him about an aspect of the data gathered during the black hole encounter. Draxt confirmed that he was starting to see patterns and that he was wondering whether they could be explained in terms of an extension to event theory.
   "The music," Orcand said after a period of silent contemplation of Draxt's latest equations, "it's totally unfamiliar to me. The style and the composer. Is it something you found on Arlsworld?"
   "No," said Draxt. "It's some of mine. I'm still working on it."
   "You're a composer?"
   "Even Mathies can have hobbies, you know," Draxt said, a little too defensively.
   "I suppose they can." Orcand put on a hint of a smile. "I'd like to hear more of it. If I may?"
   Draxt shrugged. "I'll give you the access code. But it's nowhere near complete. I think there's still something lacking. Maybe a female voice."
   "Sub-Lieutenant Frand includes singing among her accomplishments."
   "Does she? She's kept quiet about that."
   "Why?" Orcand permitted himself a broader smile. "When did you Mathies ever ask her about her personal accomplishments? You're usually too busy bouncing an outrageous theory off her to see if she'll swallow it."
   "Valid proposition," Draxt admitted.
   "Frand is also a member of the ship's Music Group. As am I."
   "I hear that's grown to more than secret society level."
   "We had about thirty members at the last count. An ensemble of up to nine active performers playing string, woodwind and brass instruments as well as keyboard instruments, and some enthusiastic listeners."
   "Viola? Your instrument?"
   "Did you know that? Or was it a guess?"
   Draxt shrugged. "I figured you for a string player but something more exotic than just a violin. And as bringing on board large instruments like a cello or a double bass is frowned on, except as electronic simulators, which I see you as a bit too much of a purist to go for, that left a viola."
   "A most Mathie line of deduction," laughed Orcand.
   "Talking about Mathie deductions, what do you think about where this is going?" Draxt returned their attention to the equations.
   "It certainly looks like a line worth pursuing," said Orcand. "Although where it will take us is unclear."
   "That sounds like a definition of Mathies," laughed Draxt. "Building roads to who-knows-where that no one will ever use."

Sub-Lt. Frand gave Korolas Draxt a wary look when he joined her at a table in the mess hall. She had just come off duty. He had the air of a man with a mission.
   "Don't tell me," she sighed, "you want me to do a week of night watches to set us square for your shore leave."
   "That's a good idea," laughed Draxt. "I hear you can sing."
   "What's that got to do with anything?" Frand asked with a frown.
   "I'm writing this piece of music which needs a contribution from a female voice. Are you up for the challenge?"
   "Sounds interesting."
   "I thought of doing the recording in one of the rover simulators. It's an ideal place to do it. There's privacy, room to move, tight control of the acoustics and it's tied in to the ship's data-logging systems."
   "That sounds an interesting change from the Captain Space Ranger missions Max Sampar and the other hot-shot pilots fly."
   "So when can we do it?"
   "Now would be a good time. That's what you want to hear, isn't it?" said Frand.
   "A singer and a mind-reader," approved Draxt.

Five months from home, Star Dancer had re-established the usual exploration routines and the crew was logging data in anticipation of further flights to the region by other deep space exploration vessels. Most of the science-based specialists had taken a turn at cataloguing the mass of data from the black hole encounter, tried to draw conclusions from the information and given up in disgust. Only the Mathies were still doing battle with it.
   Captain Fregath was almost dozing in her ready room when the second officer joined her. She was feeling unenthusiastic about studying further routine reports. They were in a dull region of space and life was boring. It was also Friday evening, but that was pretty irrelevant so far from home. She waved the visitor to a chair.
   "I request an hour of personal time for meditation purposes, Captain," said Sub-Commander Orcand, who was the Officer of the Watch.
   "That sounds bad," laughed the captain.
   "I've been exposed to the full force of Mr. Draxt's thought processes for a little over three hours and I need to recover and refocus myself."
   "What was happening during these three hours that was so terrible?" The captain remained amused.
   "A routine detector scan found an undefinable object on the limit of our range, Captain. At that point, Mr. Draxt formulated the proposition that we should be able to do better as far as identifying it went. We spent the next five minutes discussing the matter. Then Mr. Draxt spent the next two and a half hours formulating a new branch of event theory and explaining it to me, which accounts for why he took so long."
   "And you understand his new theory, Trim?" The captain dropped amusement in favour of a note of respect.
   "Yes, Captain. Mr. Draxt's pursuit of understanding can be quite relentless."
   "And you were able to determine what your mystery object was?"
   "Oh, yes. We spent the rest of the three hours, which must have amounted to half an hour or so, reprogramming the rearward detectors and making fine-tuning adjustments to the hardware. The object proved to be a dark cometary fragment with some rather odd metallic contaminations. The cosmology team are thinking about how that happened even as we speak."
   "And what was the extent of the improvement? We can define objects out to four point two grids instead of four point one?" The captain returned to amusement.
   "Mr. Draxt's improvements have extended the range of the detectors by some eight hundred per cent under certain conditions, Captain."
   "To what? That's thirty-two standard grids?" The captain was wearing an expression of disbelief now.
   "Thirty-two point nine appears to be the new theoretical limit once the hardware adjustments have been made."
   "What about the time factor involved in sending out a detector pulse and receiving it? I thought that made detection at much over four grids impractical due to the dispersion effects?"
   "Not when Mr. Draxt's new theory is applied. It allows us to detect pre-echoes of inevitable events, to quote the man himself. All courtesy of his study of the black-hole data."
   "That's astounding."
   "Yes, Captain. Hence my need to spend an hour meditating. I should add that Mr. Corbin is currently upgrading the forward and lateral detectors to provide the same scanning range."
   "I look forward to seeing how stable the modifications prove to be. Enjoy your meditation, Trim. Computer, make a log entry. Captain Fregath is taking over from Mr. Orcand as Officer of the Watch at this time point."
   "Acknowledged," said the voice of the ship's computer.
   "I take it Mr. Draxt doesn't need the same?" the captain added.
   Second Officer Orcand put on a tired smile. "Mr. Draxt is too busy refining his new theory to feel the need to rest and refocus, Captain. I doubt anyone will see much of him for a day or so. He'll be glued to his usual work station in Detector Control."

03 : Research

Personal Proposition of the Day: Event theory can be used to modify the deflector programming to provide new solutions. Not necessarily better ones but different ones.

Lt. Korolas Draxt had been working on his new theory all night. As usual, an interesting twist to it had taken him in an unexpected direction. He had travelled from the general to the particular and he was now ready to go from theory to practice.
   "Computer, locate Lieutenant Sampar," Draxt said as he was shedding his garments in his quarters on the way to a reviving shower.
   "Mr. Sampar is in the mess hall," said the vaguely mechanical voice.
   Draxt noted that the time was 07:13 hours. If Star Dancer's senior pilot was on 20:00 to 04:00 duty, he would be on stand-by for a further three-quarters of an hour.
   But, Draxt told himself, it would be unreasonable to expect an emergency to crop up when things were so quiet.
   Showered, shaved and changed, Draxt headed for the mess hall. He had not eaten anything for over twelve hours but he was too focussed on a project to feel hungry.
   "Mr. Sampar, a proposition," Draxt said as he dropped onto a seat facing the pilot in the mess hall and fixed him with a relentless gaze.
   "Not one of your frelling propositions, Draxt," sighed Sampar. An empty plate and an almost empty coffee mug occupied the table space in front of him. He looked like someone who was bored to death; but not too bored to need the attentions of a Mathie.
   "As you know, the function of a deflector system is to reflect and dissipate energy from weapon fire to prevent damage to the underlying structure." Draxt had found that non-Mathies were more receptive to new ideas if he gave them an 'as you know' introduction.
   "And as I don't know yet, because you've only just thought of it ...?" Sampar said, letting Draxt know that he, too, knew the psychology of the opening gambit.
   Draxt shrugged and smiled, acknowledging the hit. "In that case, suppose the deflectors on a rover can be programmed to anticipate an energy beam strike sufficiently to draw power from the beam? I mean, enough power to assist the deflection process materially and effectively beef up the strength of the deflection effect at the point of impact."
   "Sounds marvellous. If it can be done." Sampar added a routine note of scepticism.
   "The way the numbers are coming out, it needs the pilot to manoeuvre the rover to a very precise and changing attitude relative to the energy beam. Could you fly that sort of mission?"
   "I can fly any mission you can think of, Draxt."
   "Good. It's set up in Rover Simulator Four whenever you're ready."
   "I'm on standby until zero eight hundred."
   "I'd worked that out. You won't be too far from the bridge if there's an emergency."
   "Okay, let's do it now." Sampar drained his mug, then took it with his plate to the collection point.
   Draxt explained his ideas on the way to the simulator deck. Sampar kept frowning at him, hearing things which sounded impossible but which had to be achievable if a Mathies said that they would work.
   The simulator provided just the cockpit area of a standard rover craft and not the rear compartment, which was designed to carry forty crew members in survival suits with support equipment, or cargo when the collapsible seating was stowed. The simulator had the look and even the smell of the real thing and when 'flown', it could be buffeted to mimic a rover receiving fire from energy weapons.
   Sampar took over the left-hand control station, the traditional pilot's seat, and put on a receptive expression for the benefit of the local communication system. Draft took over a technician's station, which had been added at the rear of the cockpit. It provided duplicates of the control and monitor systems of a rover's defence and management station, which was located at the rear of the vessel, near the main airlock.
   "Fasten your harness good and tight," Draxt warned. "This will probably be quite ugly until you get the hang of it."
   "The light of this world and the light of countless other worlds abound unseen beyond our skies. Inspiring thought for the day," Sampar added in response to Draxt's quizzical look.
   "Fine. We'll start off at a quarter speed," Draxt said. "Play ourselves in gradually. Until you get used to being a bit more invulnerable than you're used to."
   "As long as I don't start taking this training out into the real world," laughed Sampar. "Powering up, preparing for manoeuvres."
   The first assault by a hypothetical enemy was a resounding victory for the enemy. Sampar's lips grew thinner and his expression became grimmer as he struggled to follow Draxt's instructions. His main problem, as Draxt had anticipated, was forcing himself to perform flight manoeuvres which would have led to the destruction of a standard rover.

Sampar thought that he was starting to do quite well when the mathematician called a halt to the tests.
   "I thought you said you could fly that thing, Max?" Draxt said as they left the simulator after an hour and a quarter, feeling their bruises.
   "Rol, with anyone else aboard flying, you'd have been dead in the first ten seconds of any of those last runs," Sampar said with total self-confidence. "Next time, we'll do it at full speed and get away with it."
   "I'll try and broaden our windows and give us a bit more sea-room," said Draxt. "So you're okay for another try in a couple of days?"
   "Bruises on bruises are never a good idea," Sampar agreed. "But you're on. Is this something we'll be able to rig in a real rover?"
   Draxt nodded. "Once I've got enough data on what's reasonable to ask from the pilot, it's just a matter of engineering."
   "Where in the Nine Hells did you get the idea for doing this?"
   "It's something that came out of the black hole encounter. I've had this nagging itch about it from day one of the trip back. And scratching it got me here."
   "Let's keep this to ourselves until we've finished testing, okay?" said Sampar. "Yes, I want to be fully trained before anyone else gets a shot at it," he admitted in response to Draxt's frown.
   "You want to stay the top dog of the pilots?" said Draxt. "Okay. I can live with that."

Lt. Sampar achieved a greater level of success on the next training run. The rover was destroyed just four times, and always because Draxt exceeded the limits of his program deliberately in a quest for more data. Draxt flew several of the simulation missions during the second and third trials. Sampar had decided that it would be a good idea to describe their simulator missions as refresher pilot training for Draxt as all officers were encouraged to maintain rover-piloting skills.
   At the end of the third trial, Sampar released his harness with a sigh of satisfaction. The extra padding had proved effective and the rover had not been 'killed' once.
   "This is getting too easy," Sampar remarked. "Even you could fly the missions now, Rol."
   "Which is probably not a bad idea, not needing an expert at the controls," Draxt returned. "Technology should be easy to use so that its user can devote most of his or her attention to tactics. Remember that lecture?"
   "One of the ones I managed to sleep through," laughed Sampar. "So what's the next step? Do we need any more trials?"
   "Probably not. I have a few loose ends to tie up, but I think I'm ready to draw up the specifications for modifying a rover. Along with one of the engineers to put it into a form they can work with."
   "How much work is involved? Not enough to make Mr. Jones fall about with mocking laughter, I hope?"
   Commander Arrik Jones, the chief engineer, was noted for his robust attitude to suggestions for impractical modifications.
   "Like the improvements to the detectors, it's mainly programming to tell the existing equipment to do the job differently. And a little bit of rebuilding the circuits to make things work more smoothly."
   "Good. I'm really looking forward to trying out a modified rover in free space under fire."
   "You really think the captain would fire the ship's disruptors at a manned rover?" laughed Draxt. "Any testing's going to be strictly a remote-control job."
   "Yes, I suppose it is." Sampar hit the door release and stepped out of the rover simulator and into the corridor. He sensed immediately that the people in it were moving about with an unusual sense of purpose.
   "Something happened?" he remarked to a passing technician.
   "The detectors have picked up two other ships that look like they're heading for the same destination, sir," she replied. "We may be heading for another planet and more shore leave."
   "Never a dull moment," said Sampar. "Thanks."
   The technician moved on with a smile.
   "I'll have some hard data on what needs to be done to the rover to give it the new system by tomorrow," said Draxt as they were about to go their separate ways.
   "Maybe we can volunteer to do the work ourselves," said Sampar. "Cutting out the engineering mob will cut the ground out from under Mr. Jones, objections-wise."
   "What, a Mathie get his hands dirty?" Draxt said indignantly.
   "You do the programming, I'll do that hard work," laughed Sampar.

Star Dancer's enhanced detectors had picked up traffic heading for a planetary system containing two huge gas giants, a scorched, asteroid-battered planet close to the star and a planetoid which was just a little larger than the Earth's moon. It was the largest of a group of fragments which were orbiting at a distance of 1.3 Astronomical Units from its primary. According to Navigation Officer Lt. Berthold Webber, there were not enough bits to call them a proper asteroid belt.
   The planetoid, which was called Osirlanding, had a colony which Star Dancer detected via communications traffic in and around a long valley and the associated spacecraft activity. Captain Fregath and the bridge crew were amazed to learn that the valley, which was up to half a kilometre deep, had a containment field for a life-sustaining atmosphere over a stretch five kilometres long. It also appeared to have an artificial gravity system which took in the full span of the settlement.
   Observations from a distance showed that the containment field could be penetrated by a rover-size craft moving slowly enough. Anyone coming in too fast, the duty helmsman decided, would bounce off. An approach at the right speed and angle, on the other hand, allowed the rover to pass through a self-sealing layer, which permitted entry to the colony's airspace without loss of the atmosphere.
   Captain Fregath contacted the local control centre and, after the usual exchanges of language data and translator-tweaks, she explained that Star Dancer was a non-hostile exploration vessel. She was given permission to approach with all weapons powered down and warned that the planetoid had substantial defences.
   Osirlanding was primarily a mining centre. It boasted large deposits of easily accessed iridium, and other useful minerals were present in worthwhile quantities. The isolated colony was also a source of re-supply goods via its gardens and machine shops. Its medical staff were used to making a rapid assessment of the biohazard level of visitors and they were prepared to accept the details supplied earlier to Arlsworld without rigorous checking. Star Dancer's crew received the 'all clear' after half a day.

Lts. Draxt and Merrith were in the mess hall, having a snack and arguing over their PDLs, when Sub-Lt. Frand joined them. Merrith immediately put his left palm on his forehead when she sat down next to Draxt.
   "I can see into the future." he announced. "I know what she's going to say next."
   "Okay, if you're so clever, which of you won the place on the first rover?" Frand challenged.
   "I did," said Draxt. "Two-nil to me is more remarkable than one-all. And you're sitting next to me, not him, so my arm's the one that's about to be twisted."
   "So are you going down there?"
   "Probably not. So no, I don't mind if you and Olga go instead." Draxt assumed that Frand would be accompanied by her friend Senior Technician Engineer Olga Maiskiy.
   "I owe you another," said Frand.
   "Duly noted," said Draxt.
   "What do you reckon to Frand?" Merrith asked his colleague with a quizzical look at the physicist.
   "In what context?" said Draxt. "Potential life partner or as a dalliance until one of us gets fed up?"
   "Probably the latter."
   Draxt directed his own inquiring gaze at the physicist. "As far as looks and intelligence go, she meets all the criteria. As far as her personality and weird personal habits go, that would require additional research. Which could be quite fun."
   "I just love the way you Mathies can reduce human relationships to just another equation," scoffed Frand.
   "Psychologists do it every day," Merrith pointed out. "So why not us? So anyway, what do you reckon to us?"
   "I prefer my men to be in touch with their human side."
   "You reckon that rules us out?" Merrith said to Draxt.
   He nodded. "I guess so. Not that her views have any relevance to the original question."
   "What, you could still see her as potential dalliance material even if she tells you 'not in this lifetime'?"
   "Certainly. As far as the theory of it goes."
   "The practice could be a bit of a problem, though," Frand pointed out.
   "Some people accuse us Mathies of being all theory, so that's self-consistent," said Merrith. "So what's this I hear about you and him spending a lot of time in the rover simulators recently?"
   "You wouldn't believe what we've been doing," laughed Frand.
   "I bet it's not the same was what he's been doing with Max Sampar in the simulators," said Merrith.
   "Probably not," agreed Frand. "I'm surprised Rol's not been assigned to fly the first rover down, never mind be on it, after all the piloting practice he's had."
   "Being a Mathie, I'm excuse anything more active than the theory of flying a rover in a simulator," said Draxt.
   "So what have you to been up to with her?" Merrith prodded as Frand was heading for her quarters to pass the good news on to her friend Olga and prepare for her shore leave.
   "Working on my concerto for voice and orchestra," said Draxt.
   "More glad you told me," laughed Merrith. "I'd never have guessed that if you'd put a bet on it. So how's the epic coming along?"
   "Progressing. Despite the interruptions."
   "I'm surprised Max is giving you so much of his time for your pilot training. Doesn't he hold Mathies in total contempt? Mainly because he's not even a quarter as good as he thinks he is in our field."
   "Just as I score points with the system for being a trained pilot, Max scores instructor points."
   "So you both get something out of it? Works for me," Merrith added with a nod. "Anyway, I have to scoot. I'm working with the bockan engineers and Mr. Jones is in slave-driving mood."
   "Enjoy yourself," said Draxt as his colleague finished his coffee and took the mug to the collection point.
   Merrith made his way straight to the Engineering Section. He won a private bet with himself when Chief Engineer Arrik Jones glared at him, telling him that he was late as a routine opening tactic. Merrith was part of a team which was working on Star Dancer's weapon systems. The idea had come in focus while he had been studying data from the black hole encounter.
   Pevel Merrith often worked independently of his colleague Korolas Draxt and he was in competition with him to a certain extent. While sharing most of their ideas, each enjoyed springing a fully formed concept on the other.
   Lt. Arcon Corbin, the second engineer, was working directly with Merrith under Commander Jones's distant supervision. They had already managed to increased the yield of Star Dancer's disruptors by 14%. They were currently working on a plan to increase the yield to 170% of the previous maximum value through more efficient energy management and focussing.
   As he settled down to another shift of calculations and testing, Merrith knew that he would be able to get right under the engineer's skin with a display of total commitment to the work. Lt. Corbin was eager for some shore leave and he was no admirer of the ship's mathematicians. Seeing a Mathie lost in his work and not at all bothered about anything happening outside Star Dancer was guaranteed to irritate him to the maximum.

The way station turned out to be a bright and clean place with its own distinctive smell. Lt. Frand passed on this opinion when she returned to Star Dancer with some books and music cubes. Having seen some of the systems used to contain the colony's atmosphere and provide 1.1 g of artificial gravity, she also brought the news that the technology was too advanced to have been created by the colonists on Osirlanding.
   The visiting ship's specialists were allowed to look, but not touch, and to learn some details of the control systems, which looked very ancient. The control systems were also the focus of local politics. The population of the colony had been expanding slowly but steadily and the governors were now working on a new plan to extend the habitable area.
   There had been several minor expansion schemes in the past; mainly aimed at straightening out bumps where the side walls intruded into the valley. The latest enlargement scheme was much more ambitious and some of the colonists were worried that it would compromise the integrity of their atmosphere containment system.
   Wondering how serious the problem really was, Captain Fregath ordered a series of scans from orbit. The results tended to confirm the opinion of the pessimists. The scans showed the presence of significant weak spots in the atmosphere containment field. When the captain passed on the results to the colony's governing body, her warning about the potential dangers of their current expansion programme was well received.
   The captain received warm thanks for her valuable contribution from the colony's governor and she recorded a minor diplomatic success in her daily log. The stop-over at Osirlanding seemed to be proving successful in many ways.
   One of the colony's major products was a vegetable called r'vode. It grew rapidly, it was tolerant to a wide range of environmental conditions and it supplied important nutritional factors and minerals to the diet. R'vode was love at first bite for Star Dancer's catering officer, Lt. Lukan Metzreg, and he saw it as an excellent fresh food to go with synthesized rations from the converters.
   Most of Star Dancer's crew found r'vode either 'delicious' or 'okay'. A small minority, which included Lt. Draxt, declared it revolting at their first taste and refused to eat it. A very few of the crew suffered a violent allergic reaction to the new foodstuff and required emergency treatment in the ship's hospital. Rilla Frand also found r'vode 'totally disgusting', which raised her stock even higher in Draxt's eyes.
   The colonists were interested in acquiring cultural materials; books and music from Star Dancer's home territory; and any gadgets which Captain Fregath felt comfortable about sharing with them. The Captain was eager to maintain friendly relations through trading while her crew enjoyed shore leave in unusual surroundings.
   Star Dancer had stocked up with compatible foodstuffs at Arlsworld but nothing at the previous stop had been as enthusiastically received as Osirlanding's r'vode. Captain Fregath had a whole raft of protocols to guide her on the types of technology which could be released in exchange for supplies. She felt comfortable with the decision-making process.
   A contented crew, the captain felt, would be better able to handle the long journey home. Unfortunately, certain members of her crew were becoming a little too friendly with the locals.


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Created for Romiley Literary Circle by HTSP Web Division, 10/12 SK6 4EG, Romiley, GB.
The original story Merik Katuryan, 2002. This version Merik Katuryan, 2005