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  #31  
Old May 8th, 2016, 10:51 PM
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The rabbit drooped slightly. Natasha pulled out a stethescope and placed it against the animals chest, adjusting the readout for its size and watching the various graphs. Yeah, that's the heartbeat, that must be respirations ... but Adam had no clue what the other data was for. The data pulses slowed and animal sagged like jello onto the drop cloth, panting hard but slowly, its eyes gazing sightlessly into the distance. Natasha put on the headphones and listened for a moment. "It responds normally."

"It has terran response to sedation?" asked Helga, moving up. She had some kind of kit with her and pushed past Adam moving into the seat on the side opposite Natasha and dropping her data pad onto the table. Laseiag remained in the corridor glancing at the animal and back towards the airlock.

Natasha considered Helga's question. "Yes." She examined the damaged leg, daubing up blood and pushing tissue aside. It made Adam's skin crawl to watch it. Helga pulled out a magni-viewer and examined first the animals ears then its fur and skin. "Please record everything," she asked Natasha, who nodded and pressed a button on the stethescope. Helga pulled out a comb and carefully searched the animals fur, concentrating on the neck and belly and studiously examining the comb tines and the drop cloth beneath whereever she combed.

"What are you looking for?" Adam asked.

"Parasites. There are none."

Adam considered. "Well now there's an advantage."

"Yes. Sonograph?" she asked Natasha, who pointed to a tool section. Helga removed it and examined the animal's skull, teeth, and neck on the viewscreen, her face a mask of professional concentration. Adam glanced at the view, the rabbit seemed to have a remarkable skull and neck bone and muscle structure. Helga continued down its body, pausing at its lungs and heart, then its other organs and traced its digestive tract to the end, frequently consulting illustrations and other data on her data pad. She then returned to examining the rabbit's teeth, consulting her data pad over and over again. Natasha had another tool and a detail viewscreen out and seemed to be working on the animal's leg tendons.

"So. Boy or girl?" Adam piped up.

"Terran male," answered Helga carefully and leaning back. "And has seventeen years."

Adam looked at the rabbit. "Is that normal?" he asked doubtfully.

"That is not a terran norm for this species." Helga clearly was impressed.

Adam thought about the devastated region around them. "And can it digest wood?"

"Determining that will require further study but this organ," Helga directed the sonograph to the animal's midsection, "would indicate that ability."

"So this animal is a plague here," said Adam.

"The preliminary indication is yes. And of further interest is the implied social structure of this species. We have seen them mass move and attack in combat in disregard of personal loss or benefit. Given its age this may be a leader."

"Or a buck private," Adam considered out loud. "How's its leg looking?" he asked Natasha.

She was finishing up a stitch. "It will limp. But the rest of it will heal." She glanced at Helga. "I presume this environment presents few threats of infection."

"That is unknown but the risk appears small," Helga answered.

"Our biomemes are a tremendous threat to it," Laseiag asserted firmly. Natasha seemed to consider this, and nodded. Adam shook his head at himself, leave it to a vilani to remember that.

"And speaking of combat," Laseiag added, pointing back down the corridor towards the open airlock. Adam looked and could see a shadow moving there.

"Chief Laseiag step back to engineering please, don't think we'll need your gun but keep it handy just in case." Laseiag nodded and pushed aft past Adam. "Ladies if there's a problem just hit the deck."

Natasha glared at him from her work on the rabbit.

"So we have a single field of fire," he added.

She considered that while pulling a stitch. "Is the bridge hatch shut?"

He glanced forward, the access to the bridge was wide open and dead center in the "field of fire", control panels and indicator lights in full view. Oh yeah you're 0 for 3 today. "No. Chief Laseiag can you avoid all that?"

"I cannot say."

"Well do your best if we need it and ladies hit the deck if we need it but we probably won't need it so everybody smile," Adam finalized. "Helga?"

"I observe." She lined up her data pad to view the lounge space.

"You're supposed to be the expert."

"Yes. I wish to see how it responds to home ground contact with you vice me being the largest individual here." Everyone glanced at her. "This will inform as to its social structure."

By the play of light from the airlock into the corridor Adam could tell the draco was in the airlock entry. "Well we're about to be informed of how well it responds to confined spaces."

Helga seemed suddenly to consider that. "This may be an issue."

"I think it'll do OK," Adam grinned. "It's a scout."

The draco eased its head into the corridor. It seemed to be hanging onto overhead bulkhead reinforcements and piping. Glancing forward then aft, it noticed Adam, and stared.

"Hello," Adam said, standing easy. He turned slowly to Helga. "Is there any particular way I should act?"

"As yourself for now."

He turned back carefully. The draco was still looking at him. After a moment it eased into the corridor, gripping overhead cabling with its wing claws and corridor fittings with its grasping feet. It watched Adam, gaging his reaction, then half-climbed further aft. Passing Helga's and Natasha's cabins it sniffed the air carefully, then climbed past the laundry machine. For a second Adam thought it was going to hit the machine's start switch. Oh yeah, permanent interspecies relations disaster because of a rinse cycle. But the draco made it past this interstellar incident and slowly advanced towards the lounge, looking everywhere it could see as it advanced.

Easing up entirely into the overhead grasping piping and fixtures as it came, it breached the lounge area and looked in, its eyes darting everywhere. It was not a large creature but its wingspread filled a good portion of the lounge entry and its alien presence seemed intrusive in the human space.

Adam could tell Natasha was very disturbed but hid it by continuing her work on the rabbit. The draco noticed its enemy and hissed, arching its neck and showing its fangs. Natasha looked it straight in the eye and said simply, "Mine." The steel in her voice was so evident it actually silenced the draco and it stared at her. She turned back to her work.

Adam carefully sat down next to Helga and waved his hand across the end of the table. No telling how the draco would see that.

As Adam cleared the corridor the draco noticed Laseiag standing in the entry to engineering, and clearly recognized the shotgun the Chief was holding. It pulled back slightly, as if it realized it was in a "line of fire" - then it postured slightly and pushed its head towards Laseiag, as if to say, "Well?" Perhaps it did say "well" - it clicked.

Adam almost laughed.

Laseiag recognized the posture. He safed his shotgun and stood it to one side and drew himself up facing the draco. "Ziru Sirka asmeshka ungashgar. Aarla." The first thing the first vilani explorer had said to the first intelligent species they had encountered thousands of years ago, and the same phrase they had used ever since. He placed his right arm across his midsection and formally bowed.

The draco seemed to accept this, and carefully set itself down onto the end of the table next to Adam, settling its wings and reversing its feet and powerfully gripping the edge to stand. It looked from Adam to Helga and back again, as if unsure, then it very deliberately placed a foot and wing forward and dipped its head and chirped and

curtsied

to the space between Helga and Adam.
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  #32  
Old May 15th, 2016, 11:58 PM
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"Uh ... well. Where's an imperial noble when you need one?" Adam asked. Natasha simply blinked. Helga looked competently and professionally pleased. Laseiag gazed knowingly.

Adam unthinkingly started to extend his hand in the solomani manner but in mid-motion switched to the standard vilani greeting method. He placed his arm across his midsection and bowed slightly, then indidicated himself and said very clearly, "Field Scout Adam Warren." He indicated Helga. "Field Scout Helga Braun von Hochstaadt." She followed Adam's lead and clasped her hands together and bowed slightly. He pointed to Laseiag and said, "Field Scout Kishsuadkimku Lasa ..." he hesitated, "Kishkuadkimdu Lusa ...."

"Field Scout Kishsuumdadkiimku Laseiag Namuuishun," Laseiag completed and bowed again, seemingly taking his name's mispronunciation in stride.

"... and Administrator Natasha Sversk," as he indicated Natasha. She looked up slightly from the rabbit and quietly responded, "Das ve danya."

The draco looked carefully at each scout as they spoke, taking note of the correction of Laseiag's name but looking at their hair and eyes and clothing, as if seeking something but not finding it and being slightly puzzled. It glanced at each one and then slowly spread its wings, carefully filling the lounge, curling its neck and looking up as if posturing, and emitted a series of clicks and chirps in various tones, carefully retracting its wings afterwards.

"Helga, is that its name?" Adam asked. She didn't respond but looked coldly calculating, then pulled down her data pad and cycled through some of its settings. Her eyes widened with appreciation. "Its name or its social standing depending on preferences. But we cannot pronounce it fully." She showed Adam a display of the recording of the draco speaking. With the draco's verbal ennunciation Adam could see that there was a simultaneous emmission of UV from the edges of the draco's paper-thin wing scales.

"So ... we are as drab and boring as calvinist monks to it? And to each other they look like a laser light dance contest on Fornice?"

"Very likely. If I understand your references."

Helga reset her data pad. She then slowly reached across the table and carefully touched the draco's mouth, then reached back and touched her ears, turning her head to show the draco what they were. She tried to recreate a portion of the draco's verbalization, succeeding almost immediately with a passable imitation of it. She then slowly touched the draco's wings, then put her hands to her eyes and covered them.

The draco stared at her. It reached across with its wing claws, pulled her hands aside, leaned in very close and studied Helga's eyes very carefully as if looking at the backs of her eyeballs. Adam and Natasha tensed, she had a scalpel, Helga gazed right back confidently .... The draco pulled back, then dipped its head to the table twice.

"It's sympathetic to our blindness," chuckled Adam.

Helga nodded. "Chief Laseiag please bring a probe rod and some aluminum foil." Laseiag nodded and moved off. She held out her hand, showing both sides of it to the draco, then picked up a writing tool for her data pad. She twirled the tool around, passing it between her fingers flipping and catching it precisely over and over again. The draco stared at the action with an almost human expression of open-mouthed interest. Laseiag returned with the probe and foil. Helga took the probe, held it before the draco, and with some obvious effort broke it in half. The draco gazed with a horrified fascination. Helga then took the foil and folded it in half, gently opened it back up, and carefully stood it up in a barely standing tent shape.

The draco touched the aluminum foil tent, seeming to feel how fragile it was. It reached across the table and took hold of Helga's hand, putting its head close. It turned her hand around and back again, flexed her fingers, pulled at her nails, examined her finger prints, pressed to find the tendons.

Natasha had paused in her work to watch the draco. Adam noticed she glanced thoughtfully down at her own hand and flexed her fingers, as if seeing them.

The draco tried to bend Helga's fingers again, Helga held them steady. The draco looked at her and pulled hard, but was unable to make them move. Helga then carefully reached in with her other hand and gently took hold of the draco's winged claw-hand. She flexed the joints cautiously, examining their relationship to the rest of the wing. It stared at her face.

"Concurrent structure," she said quietly. "This main claw is extensible. That is how they use it while maintaining flight." She slowly released the draco's hand and it withdrew the appendage uncertainly. "An effective weapon especially if surprise is achieved."

After a moment Adam said, "OK, let's start wrapping this up."

Helga assumed a completely professional attitude. "This is major species. I wish to pursue."

"Yes it is, and yes you do, but we're not here for that. You already have first contact and data and you might be able to pursue follow-on contact when the Lu Hao comes through. In fact that might even become a major effort on their part." Helga considered this and nodded.

"This draco," Laseiag added thoughtfully, "seems familiar with firearms and was willing to take risks to pursue contact with us. Perhaps it is possible to ask it if it has seen the Purdue?" Helga leaned back to think about that.

"Let's be human hospitable and give it a drink before it goes," Adam added while looking at Helga who nodded, "see how it responds to that, just water we don't want to poison it, in, uh ... bowls, I guess." Laseiag nodded and brought down five bowls and filled each one with water.

They set the fifth bowl before the draco. It looked at its bowl, then at everyone else who already had lifted theirs. Adam thought for a moment the effort was a mistake, but he took a drink, and the others did too, and the draco leaned down, sniffed the water, and using its long snout like a straw took a sip.

"Time to go?" Adam asked the draco and everyone else. The others nodded, and the draco seemed to pick up on the action. Laseiag stepped back and Adam slid out to the corridor. "I still have my revolver, let's leave the shotgun here, a gesture towards a peaceful exit," Adam said. Laseiag looked dubious but nodded.

Adam asked Natasha, "How's the rabbit?"

"Another minute," she answered, glancing at the draco. The draco looked at her, then at the rabbit, then took a step towards it.

Natasha repositioned her feet and picked up her water bowl, small motions, clearly intending to bash the draco with the bowl. Everyone froze. It looked her in the eye, she looked right back.

The draco slowly passed its wing-claw hand across its eyes, then waved it towards the rabbit.

"Helga?"

"I cannot say."

Natasha was in a ready seated stance, sheer efficiency. She set the bowl down, very close at hand, but made no other move, her eyes fixed on the draco. She wasn't tense, she was ready, Adam could tell she was smoothly practiced and could sit this way for ....

After a moment the draco looked down and moved very cautiously, snaking its neck and head over the rabbit. It eyed Natasha's tools, looked at her hands, brought its face very close to the well-practiced stitching sealing up the creature's injuries.
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Old May 22nd, 2016, 10:47 PM
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The draco settled back. It reached down slowly to touch the rabbit's teeth, then swung its claw hand in a circle, as if indicating the outside world, while looking at Natasha. It pointed at her, and chirped and clicked.

"Choose no side," said Helga.

Natasha stared straight into the draco's eyes. She then carefully looked over the avian, noting a particular gash in its side. She picked up an examination tool with one hand and pointed at the injury, never taking her eyes off of those of the draco.

"Do you wish me to help you?"

The draco seemed puzzled. It looked from Natasha's face, to her hands, to the rabbit, to it's injuries, and back again. It dipped its head and clicked.

"Do you wish me to help you?"

The draco looked at her hands again and slowly turned its injury to Natasha and pulled its wing away, glancing between her and the gash.

Natasha slowly turned her eyes to the injury and began to examine it, paying attention to a certain set of readouts from the tool. She also passed a probe under a sterilizer and closely examined the edges of the draco's skin.

The creature made a coughing noise and jerked. Natasha glanced up at it sideways, waiting. The draco put its opposite winghand down and grasped an overhead fixture with the other, steadying itself. Natasha turned back to her work.

"Do you know what you're doing?" asked Adam.

"No." She confidently sterilized several swabs and tried to clear something out from the injury, examining with the tool again and finishing up with a pair of tweezers. The draco was breathing very stiffly, eyes straight ahead, quietly clicking. Probably cursing, whatever passed for cursing among draco.

Helga was looking at the used swabs tossed to one side on the medical drop cloth. "Save its tissues for testing," Helga said.

Natasha glanced at her and considered this. "That is improper."

Helga began to answer, but then said, "Yes, you are correct" and left it at that.

Oh. Oh yeah. OK, 0 for 4 ....

"Chief Laseiag, did you ever check this world's status?" Adam asked quietly.

"Yes. There is no treaty, it has a bureaucratic semi-official preserve status only by declaration of the Indigenous Office. Some status is unclear."

"'Unclear' is not the word I want to hear," Adam said. "OK, we're authorized search and rescue and contact and research incidental to that, which so far all this has been. Their war, we got stuck in the middle, shooting in self-defense, this draco came to us, equal medical aid, so far it's all good and I don't want to get tangled up in this any more than we already are."

"And the rabbit?" asked Laseiag.

"Uh ... sample." Adam pointed to Helga. "If it asks you to leave it alone then leave it alone, otherwise look it over and we'll drop it off later."

Not smooth.

"Natasha, how's he looking?" he asked.

"I am finishing." She was applying a silicone pad over the injury to seal it shut. She passed some kind of light over it - the draco jerked away and covered its eyes from the light - and the patch seemed to set.

Seeming to relax a bit, the draco snaked its head down to look over the patch carefully, reaching across to touch it. Natasha moved her hand to block the draco touching the patch. "Two days," she said. The draco looked at her.

Helga kneeled down into the draco's view, and it turned to her. She pointed at the patch, then pointed straight up, moving her arm around in a great circle twice, then pointed to the patch again and made a small motion imitating the patch falling off. The draco looked at her, then the patch, then back and chirped several times.

"That sounds good, ladies and gentlemen let's call time here and move on," Adam said. Helga looked at the draco and motioned forward, then moved into her cabin. Laseiag cast a glance to Adam's sidearm - Adam nodded - then looked at the draco too and headed to the airlock, Helga moving behind him having retrieved something. Adam looked to the draco and motioned forward. "Shall we?"

The draco looked forward, then back to Natasha, who had sat back a bit. It leaned forward looking at her hands. She stared at it. It stood back, placed a wing and leg forward and curtsied again, then climbed into the overhead and back towards the airlock.

"Well it seems you've been promoted," Adam laughed quietly to Natasha. She had leaned back, her hand over her mouth, her eyes shut. He added, "You know, you're doing really well, I had thought ...."

She slammed the table with her fist.

Hard but not efficiently.

Again. She was shaking her head back and forth, her eyes shut.

He watched her.

She had her hands in front of her face as if trying to grip something. "Field Scout Warren I apologize this ...."

He leaned forward and put his hand along her face and under her chin, turning her eyes to his. She was stunned. He looked at her. What a filly, she really was fine, but there was something else in there, he tried to see it ... he couldn't, an open space, usually he ....

He let her go.

She sat looking down.

After a moment he said, "Helga says the rabbit is clean, might be good to keep it in your cabin while it heals. You can pick up your kit first, I'll straighten up here."

She nodded. She repacked her medbag, then crooked the dozing rabbit in her left arm while slinging the bag on her right and limped to her cabin.

He watched her carefully. She cradled the rabbit well.

He gathered up the medical drop cloth, remembering to roll it up from the outside in, then stuffed it into the trash compressor and ran the sterilization cycle. He stood thinking a moment.

Are you better.

He passed her cabin. The door was open. He did not look directly in, but watched her from the corner of his eye as shipboard etiquette allowed. She was kneeling by her bunk and laying out a blanket into a nest one-handed onto the deck, then placing the rabbit in it. She laid it carefully on its side, injured leg up, then watched it for a moment, faced away from him.

"C'mon, I'll help you up the ladder."

She nodded. He stepped into the airlock and climbed the ladder.

Maybe not a good move for her. The animal bodies were everywhere. Well, no reason to try and avoid it. Laseiag stood on the hull checking 360, seemed to be his station. Natasha appeared below and he kneeled down to grab her hand, helping her up as she favored her leg. Laseiag noticed this and watched them askance.

The draco had just flown off the hull down to a tree stump near Helga. It pointed to its silicone patch, then up at the local star, made a sweeping full-circle motion following its relative orbit twice, then made a motion to remove the patch, looking at Helga. Helga glanced at Natasha, who nodded and said, "Yes." She nodded in turn, said yes very clearly, and repeated its motions. The draco seemed to understand, glancing back and forth between Helga and Natasha.

Adam slid down the hull ladder. "OK, any chance of asking him if he's seen the Purdue? This I have to see."

"Yes. I try."
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Old June 5th, 2016, 11:21 PM
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Helga got the draco's attention and pointed to herself. The draco looked between Helga and her hand. "Field Scout Helga Braun von Hochstaadt." She pointed to the others. "Field Scout Adam Warren. Field Scout Kishsuumdadkiimku Laseiag Namuuishun." The draco glanced between her and Adam. "Administrator Natasha Sversk." Helga walked up to the Flower and slapped it several times while looking at the draco. "ISS Flower." She took out a chalk marker and on the hull where the ships name should have been she wrote out the ship's name. "I - S - S - F - l - o - w - e - r", sounding out each letter.

The draco pulled its head and wings back, staring at the markings.

Helga used a rag to erase the name, then wrote it again, sounding out each letter.

"A B C D E F G," Adam sang quietly. Overhead he heard Laseiag say, "sha kum ga nam ..." only he made it sound like something out of an opera.

The draco barely moved. It clicked and chirped.

"Ah." Helga nodded and pointed at the draco's mouth, then on another part of the Flower wrote a series of symbols, various stars and rising and lowering lines, as she wrote them doing a passable job at sounding out the clicks and chirps the draco had made.

The draco had leaned back even further, it's head pulled very far back. It suddenly leaned forward, it's head and muzzle pointing towards the hull where Helga had written. It clicked.

Helga wrote a star symbol and pointed to it, imitating the draco's click.

It stared, then suddenly did a full running turn around the top of the tree trunk like a mad squirrel, coming to an abrupt halt in exactly the same spot and position it had been a moment before. Adam almost burst out laughing but managed to contain himself. The draco chirped, once, a simple sound. Helga considered the sound, tried to repeat it, then wrote a straight line with a slight dip at the end.

It pulled back its head again. It made a more complex chirp. Helga tried to imitate it, and tried to make some kind of symbol representing the sounds, but couldn't seem to get it right. She stepped up to the draco and offered it the chalk marker to the draco, who took it and examined it carefully. She then stepped back to the Flower's hull, got down on one knee with her other knee up as a platform, and motioned to the draco as if inviting him to land on her and write on the hull.

It considered, then flapped forward and settled on her thigh, leaning on the hull with one wing hand. She grimmaced as the draco's feet gripped her leg with obvious strength, but held still. The draco looked at her, then at the chalk marker again, and hesitantly tried to make a mark with it. It produced a long and trailing scrawl, like a child, but seemed to realize right away it could vary the thickness of the line by changing the pressure of the stroke. It chirped softly to itself and scrawled a line, changing it several times as it seemed trying to figure out something.

"Helga let's make that a homework assignment, OK?" Adam suggested quietly.

"Yes," she grunted. The draco was gripping her leg more tightly. She caught its attention again and held out her hand for the chalk marker. The draco seemed reluctant but gave it back and flapped back to its tree stump, seeming to be preoccupied with some thought. Helga stood up and started again, going through everyone's name and writing "ISS Flower" again. She then erased the name, pointed to the local star overhead, and began swinging her arm around following the stars course but reversed. The draco stared. Helga continued for a few dozen revolutions, then stopped inconclusively. She said very clearly, "ISS Purdue", and wrote on the hull "ISS Pur", about where the Purdue should have painted its name. She pointed to the draco, then its eyes, and then swung her hand around the horizon in a full circle, then knelt down again and offered the chalk marker to the draco.

It flapped over to her knee again, took the chalk marker, and with great concentration childishly scrawled a finish to, "ISS Pur" - "dvc".

"OK, we have a winner, that's a pattern match, he's seen it before," Adam said. "Helga, where away?"

The draco flapped back to the tree trunk again and Helga stood up uneasily rubbing her leg. She pointed to the writing the draco had finished then in various directions and looked at the draco. It turned deliberately, set its feet, raised its wings, and pointed with its head and neck. Southeast.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I think we have an azimuth," Adam said.

Helga had her data pad out and was orienting it in the same direction. She checked various entries.

"Well?" Adam asked.

"Several points of interest, all non-primary except for one human habitation," Helga said.

Adam hesitated. "Such as?"

"By approach to mid-orbit, glacier, human habitation, oceanic bio-locus, jungle-desert transition, and large active volcano, followed by open ocean glancing south polar regional ice."

"Chief Laseiag, can an S-class be modified for seawork?" Should have asked more questions before we left Karin.

"Not easily," Laseiag answered. "That is a general tasking ship not purpose-built for that environment."

"And oceanic studies are long-term survey, not scouting assignment," added Helga. "As are non-resource-involved vocanic and glacial studies."

"And they weren't supposed to contact the natives at all," Adam mused for a moment. He decided. "OK, let's fly where he says, have a look checking for comms and pinging for bots," he looked at Natasha, who nodded, "and see what we see. If nothing else we can scope the humans as we pass the bay, I want to see whatever we can of them anyway and there's no reason we can't engage in non-intrusive studies of the natives," he added, looking at Helga.

"Yes."

"Now would be a good time to refuel," added Laseiag, "as there are fresh-water lakes nearby. I would rather break in the purifier on fresh water than salt."

Adam thought a moment. "Yeah, but we have plenty of fuel right now and the centurio's given us a direction," Adam said pointing to the draco, who was watching all of them, "so let's take it so he's not confused or insulted. We'll probably see a source along the way and if not we'll be back here soon in any case."

"How accurate is this azimuth?" Natasha asked.

"Most avians have highly developed directional sense, and I access alignment algorithm," Helga answered professionally. Natasha seemed satisfied.

"Anything else?" Adam asked. No-one added anything. "OK, that's it. Chief Laseiag we'll lift in a bit, Natasha please get Helga's azimuth. Helga maybe you can give the draco your chalk marker, we can spare it? And he can fly with it, right?"

"Yes and yes." Helga stepped to the draco and offered him the chalk marker. He took it, studying it more carefully, then watched her walk back to the Flower and the other crew descending into the hatch.

Adam walked up to him and offered the Vilani greeting, bowing. "Thank you." The draco chirped, some kind of sing-song he hadn't heard before. Probably a good word. He turned to go, taking a last look around at the battlefield.

He stopped. A draco soldati was almost upright, propped up by three dead rabbits that had pressed in to attack. It had killed all three before dying itself.

He stared at the scene. He angrily raised his face to ....

Don't.

He knelt down by them, reaching out to touch the soldati, then one of the rabbits, both. They were still warm, the soldati very much so. He started, "Our Father ...." but that was as far as he could get. He almost ....

The centurio landed across from him. He looked at it. It dipped its head, then waddled nearer, holding its head with Adam over the soldati and rabbits.

He closed his eyes and finished it.

He looked up, the centurio was watching him. Adam started looking around, raising his face. The centurio started looking with him. As Adam looked high the centurio flapped into the air and started up, Adam's scout patch in one claw and the chalk marker in the other, spiraling wider and wider as he gained altitude.

Eventually Adam couldn't see him anymore.
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Old June 12th, 2016, 10:55 PM
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He stood up and turned back to the ship. Natasha was looking at him through the bridge window. She didn't seem so hard. He noticed Hansel and Gretel, parked in the dirt. Oh yeah, 0 for 6. Probably ought to stop counting. He waved to Natasha and pointed to the bikes. She nodded and moved away. He approached the bikes, looking for and finding the on switch. They powered up and rose a bit, Gretel's partially disassembled seat rattling. He linked.

"Helga, forgot the bikes, get the garage door please, and I think Natasha dropped the bolt bar in the corridor."

"Yes."

He searched the ground for any more parts, found a few, then led the bikes aft. Helga whistled them up, latching them into their mounts and shutting them down. He could see she was favoring her right leg. There was grass and foliage caught on the bottom of the bikes and Helga started to toss it out. "Wait, save that, the rabbit might want it." She nodded. He tossed up the parts to her, then headed to the port ladder as she secured the garage hatch. He climbed the ladder and slid down into the ship, leaving the hatch open, then moved to the bridge, looking down at the deck, thinking.

What do I do?

No answer.

He guessed.

Stop guessing.

He eased into the bridge, standing tall. Natasha was in the navigator's seat, plotting a course. He looked at her. She looked over her shoulder at him.

He pointed to her injured leg. "You able to fly?"

She nodded, keeping eye contact. He met her gaze, then sat in his seat switching on his panel. "Then line up and take her out. Any comms or pings?"

She looked down then over her panel. "No, nothing."

"Well, maybe we'll see something on this flight. Helga I left the airlock open, before we lift please put eyes on our overhead so we don't lift through any flocks."

"Yes," Helga responded.

"Engineering on-line", Laseiag announced.

"Acknowledged, prepared to lift on clearance by Helga," Natasha announced.

After a moment Helga called, "Overhead clear."

"Lifting," Natasha announced as she checked sensors overhead. The Flower lifted easily, and she swung it to the plotted course as it rose.

"Port forward airlock unsecured," Flower announced. After a moment it corrected, "Port forward airlock secured."

"Helga?"

"Inboard," she answered.

Adam watched the treeline and creek and pond fall away then turn from view. Nice spot but the middle of a warzone. He scanned his panel, checked fuel, then accessed the sensor suite to line up the scope. He viewed towards the bay as the Flower rose. Hazy. Natasha settled the Flower into an easy atmospheric course on the azimuth.

"Time to bay?"

"An hour," Natasha answered.

"OK, tell you what, let's trade off for lunch, I'll take it for now. Helga pulled some plants off of the bikes, maybe the rabbit would like some of it. I think he might like some of the potatoes we have too."

"Carrots. They like carrots."

"Oh." Adam laughed. "He can have as many of those as he wants. I have the conn."

"You have the conn." She unbuckled and eased towards the hatch. She stopped, and hesitantly put her hand on his shoulder, looking at the deck.

He moved his face over her hand, then looked at her. "You need to take care of your rabbit."

She nodded, and eased off the bridge.

He scanned his panel again. "Chief Laseiag, stable flight, you can eat if you want."

"Acknowledged, out of engineering."

Natasha had left her comm linked, he could hear her in her life support module taking a shower before she went to eat.

The local star was high overhead, the forest stretched away. After a while it began breaking up into meadows and hill country, advancing towards the mountain range with the glacier. Magnificent clean gray stone rising high and snow-peaked, lots of broken country to the north, quite a few streams flowing from it.

Natasha relieved him and he moved to the lounge to wolf down some food. Helga was there with her data pad.

"The upcoming mountain range is magnificent. Just how active is this place?"

"It is very active. Earthquakes and tsunamis are above average in occurance. This mountain range is new and the region around it is expected to have many fossil remains."

"Well we should be over the bay just about now, should be able to scope it through the haze. Do you want to observe from the bridge or your cabin."

"Cabin."

"Let us know what you want."

"Twenty thousand feet, minimum speed to avoid contrail." He nodded and headed back to the bridge and settled into his seat. Natasha had overheard Helga and had already adjusted the flight regime. She seemed focused and was watching her panel closely.

"You got this?"

"Yes." She was handling the ship well, gaining experience.

"Chief Laseiag, you catch that?"

"Acknowledged, minimum speed and lift regime."

Adam lined up the scope again and passed the controls to Helga's cabin desk. "I'll just have a general look around, you focus on what you want," he said.

"Yes."

He lined up a display to show what she saw, then just looked out the window.

It was truly magnificent. High fluffy clouds, looked like a calm sea with few whitecaps, the snowcapped range looming over the bay. He didn't know a thing about sailing but could see the attraction immediately.

Helga was scoping the shoreline. Almost immediately she centered a village, several dozen huts set high on the beach, canoes set well away from the waterline. Interesting, the housing was organized almost in a grid pattern, and there appeared to be a stone street down the middle. Not savages. The arrangement of the canoes seemed to indicate most of them were absent, and Adam scanned the ocean trying to see them on the water. Eventually he saw some, mostly by their wakes. They must have sails. He marked the coordinates and passed them to Helga. Eventually she turned the scope to them. Yep, sails, the boats were at least twenty feet long, indicating some kind of construction.

He noticed another disturbance on the water, and passed the coordinates to Helga again. when she got to them it immediately was obvious that it was caused by large sea animals, breaching the surface and throwing up spray. Several dozen at least. They must be huge.

A bright glint caught his eye. It was near the village Helga had scoped earlier. Probably some shiny rock ...

It glinted again. And again, lingering, vibrating.

"Helga, you see that?"

"Where?"

He passed the coordinates. She focused in on it. A few people, indistinguishable, the glint suddenly flashing again directly from one of them several times.

"Well, they see us," Adam commented. Natasha glanced at him. "Do we have a contrail? Natasha do full V and a 360." Natasha flat-spun the Flower in a full circle, and they scanned their 180. No contrail. Natasha reestablished the minimal regime, then looked over the external features configuration. "They see our own glint. And in spinning we flashed them," she reported.

"OK, two first contacts in one day," Adam said rubbing his forehead. "And they're trying to communicate. Helga, how do you want to handle this?"

"I wish to contact," Helga replied.

"We're not supposed to," Adam started.

"It is an unusual contact and might be the Purdue crew," Laseiag spoke up.

"Uh, yeah, yep that's true," Adam admitted. "OK, that meets the requirement, we go in. Helga, since we don't know exactly what's going on yet let's do a simple walk-in and not land in full god-mode."

"Yes."

"Where away?"

"Swing around eastern mountain range and come in from east."

He looked over the terrain. "OK, looks good, it'll be sunset there about then and we can go in in the morning after a good look around. Sound OK?"

"Yes."

"OK, Natasha I have the conn, plot us a ... minimal glint course around that range over there and I'll swing it in."

"You have the conn."

"By the way any comms or pings?"

She checked her board while entering some data. "None."

Adam shook his head as he added speed and altitude. "Maybe they crashed. Chief Laseiag, normal flight."

"Acknowledged."
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Old June 13th, 2016, 09:24 AM
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This is very good! Keep going!
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Old June 19th, 2016, 10:05 PM
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Adam waited for Natasha to come up with a "non-glint" course. Should have remembered that one, make sure it's in the report, add it to the textbooks. "Fifty ways to blow your cover" ....

Laseiag spoke up. "Helga, we saw you limping earlier."

"Yes. Avian pedal organs are very strong in relation to their weight. I failed to consider my action." Could hear her rubbing her leg.

"And Natasha, how is your injury progressing?"

Natasha looked at Adam. He frowned.

"It is significant laceration. I will know my mobility tomorrow morning but I anticipate significant reduction."

"And we are to attempt to hide and walk in some distance unsure of our reception? And in addition unsure of contact at all? Tomorrow they may be located in the next village over."

"Correct procedure specifies gradual contact with primitive societies," Helga said.

"And we are specifically mandated to minimize contact here," Adam added. But the man has a point.

"Not at the expense of safety. We are a minimal crew, the indigenous population already has seen us and signaled us, and they may already be in contact with the crew of the Purdue. There is no reason to hesitate here."

Adam thought a moment. "Helga?"

She hesitated, but said, "Concur." Happily.

"Natasha?"

"In truth I should not walk. And we should not separate the crew."

"OK, by popular request we'll drop in now," Adam concluded. "Natasha you remain aboard in the pilot seat, Laseiag you'll probably do the usual on-hull overwatch, Helga you lead and I'll back. Anything else?" No-one added anything. "OK, if we're going in let's make a splash, Natasha take the conn and see if you can make the ship flash back at them."

"I have the conn." She ran a few equations, swung the Flower back around on a landing approach, and wobbled the ship a few degrees. Helga had set the scope on the people on the beach, they seemed to act as if they had seen something. Adam scanned the beach, looked OK to land, he picked a preliminary spot.

"About twenty minutes?"

"Twenty-three."

"OK, I'll take the conn, show me a glint maneuver for about ten minutes out, let 'em know we're getting closer so they can call out a welcoming committee, and maybe you should check on the rabbit and relax a bit yourself, I'll have to call you back when we're in proximity."

She nodded and transferred a maneuver plan. "You have the conn." She eased up, sneering silently in obvious pain at the movement, and eased off the bridge.

"Chief Laseiag the preliminary landing zone looks clear so I anticipate minimal stress on approach and landing."

"Acknowledged."

Adam felt the world looming closer as the approach developed. Never got to know any kind of ocean, probably shouldn't pay too much attention until this contact is developed ... his eyes kept turning to it ....

Helga had the scope set to the small group on the beach. They were pointing up at the Flower and talking. The signaller was female, most of the others were males, some of whom had some kind of polearm weapon, probably spears. At the ten minute mark Adam put the Flower though a glint maneuver. Must have got it right, they all froze in place and stared at the obviously approaching flash. Probably juveniles, long unsecured blonde hair, standard simple short skirts for the males, short tunic for the two female, have to find out what they use for cloth .... one of the males ran up the beach towards the village, very fast, some canine-looking animals running with him looking happy as can be. The rest of the group just stared. No adults, no imperial uniforms, looked like simple indigenous. Well, 0 for ... something.

"Helga, do we want to just land or wait for any welcoming committee?"

"Set down and debark immediately to assess initial group reaction before full strength is assembled. Many primitives have ecclectic response to first contact, especially males."

"See the boy running up the beach?"

"Yes. Healthy and very fast."

"Crew sing out and acknowledge that and presence of companion animals, probably dogs or something similar, and weapons, spears." Laseiag and Natasha both acknowledged.

Adam could see the figures on the beach without the scope now, and they could see the Flower. They looked stunned. Head's up. "Chief Laseiag, Natasha, on approach." He eased over to starboard, then port to line up on a likely spot. Natasha limped onto the bridge and buckled in, taking in the sight and approach immediately. She had a pair of binocculars.

"I got it, just give me visuals," he said. She nodded.

A fair quantity of other villagers were appearing at the top of the hill by the village. They all stopped and stared. Seemed like mostly women and children and a few old men, no obvious Purdue crew among them either. Some dogs barking, looking around at the humans as if saying, "Is this what I'm supposed to do?"

Adam shook his head. Antedeluvian, shame to disturb it ....

Natasha felt the change in ship handling. She looked at him. He glanced over, and winked, then double-checked the approach point about a hundred paces from the group on the beach. "Touching down," he announced. He flared the boat, took one last look, eased down, settled the boat and set vector to zero.

"Down."

The teenagers on the beach were staring at him and Natasha, open-mouthed. One of the boys looked suspicious. The ones up at the village weren't moving. The dogs were turning in circles, barking at each view of the Flower.

"Chief Laseiag let's keep everything on standby and you follow us out. Helga I assume you're ready and armed, no reason to wait, you ease on out while I arm up. Ladies and gentlemen, maximum restraint here."

"Yes."

Natasha was scanning the group on the beach and the group up at the village through her binocculars.

"Actually, when they see what big eyes you have, that probably frightens them more than the ship," Adam said. She seemed to consider this, then resumed her scanning. Adam grinned. He unbuckled. "Flower, outhull close-contact protocols." The machine responded and Adam slipped off the bridge and past Helga on her way out with her fully loaded vest, and into his cabin. Revolver, two loaders, all light loads. He headed back forward to the airlock, Laseiag right behing him with his shotgun again.

"Chief Laseiag check six frequently, lots of primitive cultures celebrate theft."

"I will," Laseiag answered easily.

Adam grinned. "You know that already, don't you."

"There is much to recall. Review is always welcome."

Adam cocked his head at the shotgun. "Non-lethal?"

"First three. Speaking of review, are you ready if the leader challenges you, or demands gifts, or expects you to perform a miracle?"

Adam laughed out loud. "I can wing it. But right now that's Helga's job, and we're here to back her up in success or failure, and in any case I'm hoping we can just ask and answer a few questions and then move on."

Adam nodded and headed into the airlock. "Yeah." He paused, shook his head again, then jogged up the ladder.
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Old June 26th, 2016, 09:37 PM
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The air was so alive, yet clean. Not empty, filtered and sterilized, but ... the way it should be. Adam had never smelled anything like it. The waves on the beach set a rolling background noise, he'd heard it before made by some machine that was supposed to help one sleep, the sea made the machine sound fake. The vast blue sky seemed like a window to heaven, God's eye looking down.

The natives from the village were hurrying down, the older men and women falling behind the younger children who ran pell mell, the dogs running with them. The teenagers on the beach just stared. One of the boys held his spear at port arms, like a shield. The girl held what looked like an obsidian sheet with a hole drilled in the center. The look on her face was clearly, "Did I do this?" All of them tall, well-formed.

Helga already was at the foot of the ladder and striding towards them, erect, a head taller than any. Adam slid down and fell in several steps behind her. She stopped a few paces in front of the teenagers and walked their line, looking them over carefully, as if inspecting them.

The village children ran up, about twenty or so, filling in with and around the teenagers, and stopped. Helga gazed at them. Everyone was completely silent, even the dogs.

An upturned small boat was near. Helga sat on it with authority, raised her hands to the children as if readying for an embrace, and smiled so enormously she looked like the sun.

"Kinder!" Her voice boomed out like an opera call.

The teenagers jumped. The children all cheered and raced up, surrounding her and jumping up and down as if welcoming their mother. The dogs joined them, milling around the outside of the small crowd and barking up at the air. Like a Moran matriarch at a family reunion, Helga picked up the smallest one in reach and placed the child on her knee, reaching around and touching the heads of all the others as if blessing them.

The adults from the village, several dozen, arrived, and stood in a semi-circle around her. Some old men but mostly females, some pregnant. They gazed in awe at Helga, and glanced at Adam and Laseiag. One old woman with many tatoos and some kind of head dress and leading an apparently blind girl was chanting something, Helga trying to listen to it while continuing to observe everyone and to address the jumping children. One woman, staring at the child on Helga's knee, was covering her mouth and clearly on the verge of crying. The old tattooed female put her arms around her and waved to the child on Helga's knee and then to the sky excitedly, continuing her chant. It was a heavy language, emphasizing both vowels and consonants as if each were independent of the other.

Helga looked at and pointed to the distressed woman, waving her over. The woman approached slowly, almost weeping, obviously pleading. Helga reached out and touched her head, then whispered something into the child's ear. The child giggled happily, and Helga then handed it over to the woman, who almost dissolved in relief as she carried it away. As she passed by the old tattooed female rapped her on the head with a short staff and said a single word, and then turned back to Helga and started chanting again. All the children were staring open-mouthed. Helga glanced around at them experimentally and grinning called, "Also?" They all started up again, the girls with one hand up and faces raised hopefully, the boys howling with both hands up in the air.

Several of the old men were standing together, observing Adam and Laseiag, talking quietly. One of them managed to call two of the dogs which immediately came to him and crouched at his feet facing outward. Another of them managed to attract the attention of two of the teenaged boys, and call them over to stand next to him, their spears idly ready but their faces puzzled.

Adam glanced back to the Flower. Laseiag was standing on the hull like a warrior, feet easy apart, shotgun held in a manner marking it as a weapon even if one had no idea what a shotgun was. He saw Laseiag nod very slightly.

And Natasha was just approaching from the foot of the ladder. She had her medical bag with her and the binocculars around her neck. She was limping badly. Well, there goes the bug-out plan, no pilots on the ship. What brings this on.

"Helga, Natasha's moving up like she knows something," Adam called just loud enough to be heard over the childrens' shouting. Helga looked back and nodded.

All of the adults and teenagers were watching Natasha. As she approached, they all, except for one of the older men, got down on one knee. All of the children saw them, turned and looked at Natasha, then laid down on the ground facing her. The old tattooed female's chant continued quietly.

It shocked Natasha, and she froze in mid-stride. Just for a second, then she kept limping forward. Adam maneuvered very slightly so as to cover both her and Helga. The one old man who had not knelt down watched carefully and obviously understood exactly what Adam was doing.

As she approached Natasha said to Helga, "I recognize this language group. May I interact?"

"Yes ... ?" said Helga.

Natasha tapped her binocculars and pointed to the teenage boy kneeling next to the girl with the obsidian mirror and said to Adam, "This one has laser burns."

Adam raised his face in realization. "OK." Natasha limped up to the boy and said something to him, sounding similar to the chant. The boy looked up at Natasha - Adam now noticed the scars on his face and the one turned eye - and stood up, dropping his spear. He seemed proud, but somehow resigned. The old tattooed female chanted a little more excitedly, and the blind girl behind her smiled into her darkness.

Natasha and the boy exchanged a few sentences, apparently working out each others' vocabulary. She closely examined the scar tissue on his face and passed a viewer across his damaged eye.

"Tell Helga what you are saying, let her control this as much as possible," Adam told Natasha. "I'm going to bring the blind girl up, OK?" he called back.

"No. She will believe she is chosen. Let Natasha approach her."

"OK." Adam waited.

"He wants to know what color star we are from," Natasha said.

Helga seemed to consider this. "Tell him Karin."

"Can you ask him how he received his burns," added Adam.

Natasha nodded and spent several sentences with the boy. "He says a star came down and showed his sister many other stars." She pointed to the blind girl. "He says he hit it and it showed him more stars. He is sorry hit hit it," she added.

Adam nodded. "The Purdue's survey bot."

"The burn is consistent with a low power defensive system," Natasha agreed.

"So it must be close by. Ask him where he saw it."

This actually took her several more sentences, but eventually he turned and squinted off into the distance, and carefully pointed, describing something. Natasha seemed to query him more, stumbling over her words.

"Limit your questions," Helga called.

Natasha nodded, and stopped speaking. She hobbled up to the blind girl and looked into her eyes with the viewer. The girl seemed almost eager.

"Are they treatable?" Helga asked.

"I cannot say. Not with this equipment."

"Then say nothing of that. Tell them only that more of us will come eventually."

Adam glanced back at Laseiag. The man saw him look and held up four fingers, then pointed towards the sea. Adam nodded. "OK, we have the village men coming ashore, hate to say this twice in one day but let's wrap this up." Natasha nodded, spoke a few more words, then put her equipment away and started limping back to the Flower.

The blind girl was crest-fallen. Watching Natasha leave the boy cocked his head at Adam doubtfully.

The old tattooed female was considerably more direct. She stood up and thwacked Adam on the head with her stick, saying one word.

"Ow! HEY!" He grabbed the stick, but she held on and stared him straight in the eye. Everyone was standing up. Natasha was watching.

He rubbed his head. "Yeah, you have a point." He let go of the stick and she glared at him.

"Helga, you have your comm link?"

"Yes."

"Let me have it. And your service patch." He stepped over and she smiled as she handed them over. "Head out," he told her. He walked to the boy, picked up his spear, and gave it back to him. He also pulled out of his equipment belt his issue scout service knife and gave that to him. The boy, and everyone around him, stared at it. Adam walked to the old woman and gave her Helga's service patch - she gaped, seeming to grasp what the imperial starburst was meant to depict.

The blind girl was still kneeling, confused. He knelt down next to her, locked down all the comm link settings, and carefully set it on her head. He called back. "Natasha. Tell her that I've been to many stars, that the most beautiful star I've ever seen, and that when we return she'll hear us again."

Natasha turned away towards the Flower and linked, speaking. She seemed to have trouble getting the point across and it took a while but the blind girl gasped at hearing the voice through the link, then covered her mouth with both her hands, her blank eyes wide.

Adam rose and strode back to the Flower. Most of the tribe were gathering around the blind girl who was pointing to Natasha and explaining something. He glanced out over the ocean, several boats approaching, oh yeah, time to leave, let's not make this too complicated, Helga already in-hull, Laseiag was helping Natasha up the ladder, Adam grasped the rungs.
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Old June 26th, 2016, 09:38 PM
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One of the old men hobbled up and grabbed Adam's arm, seemingly confused by the fabric of the uniform. Another thing you forgot to ask about, 0 for something again. The man wheezed out a question, and Adam glanced up at Natasha.

"He says this place is not a star."

"What's their word for star?"

"Stjarna."

Adam pointed to 875-496-0 overhead. "Stjarna."

The old man followed his point to the blazing object. He seemed to slowly realize something, forgot Adam, and let go.
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Old July 3rd, 2016, 10:25 PM
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Adam trotted up the ladder, glancing back over the ocean. Yep, four boats pulling up, here any minute. A few too many men to be a fishing expedition, not that Adam knew anything about fishing expeditions.

Laseiag helped Natasha down and dropped her bag to her, then glanced around one more time before handing down his shotgun.

"Let's get a light-off going," Adam called. Laseiag nodded and slid down into the hull. Adam looked back at the assembled villagers. The children were all crowded around the boy to whom he'd given the knife, trying to pry it out of his hand to look at it. He seemed distracted, as if his encounter had not gone as he'd expected. The woman who's child Helga had held was sitting back a ways on a boat, rocking her child back and forth. The old tattooed woman walked up to her and hit her on the head again with her stick, speaking and pointing back at the Flower.

The men were leaping ashore, spears in hand, running towards the ship. Big boys, blonde hair in the wind, focused eyes, moving fast. The old tattooed woman saw them and screeched, hobbling at breakneck speed to intercept them, waving her stick.

Hey, let's make contact, see what happens .... Adam dropped into the airlock and shut the hatch. Natasha was just coming back out of her cabin, in obvious pain. Adam slid onto the bridge and started lining up drives, Natasha slid in after him and climbed into her seat breathing heavily. "Just stand by," he told her, and she nodded, grimmacing but lining up her panel.

The men ran up, spears ready, staring at the ship. Most looked awestruck and nervous, but the one in front had his eyes fixed firmly on Adam and Natasha, intelligent and evaluating. The old tattooed woman ran up behind him and began beating him with her stick, but turning slightly without moving his eyes he casually reached behind himself and grabbed it, stopping her. With his other hand he jabbed at the Flower's bow with his spear, tapping it.

Adam could see the girl with the obsidian mirror, standing on the beach where she had been originally, wide-eyed at everything she had caused.

His panel lined up he checked settings and overhead sensors. "Lifting," he announced, and actuated the controls.

The controls hesitated. "Close contact safety protocol. Personnel entrainment," Flower announced calmly.

"Where?" he called to Natasha.

"Maneuver envelope breach," Laseiag called.

Natasha rapidly cycled her flight readouts. "Port bow, above your side," she said, "more than one."

Adam looked up. One of the men was crouched on the hull, looking down at him, uncertain, excited. Big open good-natured face, large healthy teeth. The man grinned, like a lion who was happy to see him.

He heard Helga at the bridge hatch. "I clear hull?" she asked.

Adam's eyes were flying over the villagers, village, and outside terrain. They stopped on the ocean. "No. Natasha give me water depth. Chief Laseiag close-quarters maneuver. Flower bridge command suspend safety protocols. Lifting."

"What?" Natasha started.

"Acknowledged," called Laseiag.

He lifted the boat. Everyone on the beach took a step back, shocked faces, even the ones who had seen it land. The man on the hull suddenly dropped low, spreading his limbs and holding on as best he could, looking excited and seeming to yell happily. Adam carefully gained about 20 feet straight up then slewed hard to port, wafting down the beach and over the water. All the men stared open-mouthed, all the children were jumping up and down and waving and seemed to be yelling, most of the dogs had stopped and simply cocked their heads sideways.

"Outer dorsal airlock open," Flower announced.

Adam swore. Natasha stared at him.

"Helga!"

"Ja!" She moved out.

"Chief Laseiag back!"

"Acknowledged, 30 percent."

The Flower was well over the water. "Yeah! Depth!"

"Unknown, blue water."

Adam rolled the ship into the slew. The world outside rotated, blue sky and blue water swapping places. The native on the roof slid off and fell curving down into the water. Adam halted at inversion. "Maintain," he told Natasha. She responded, "I have the conn."

"Raus!" Helga's voice boomed like an opera-call.

He slid out of the bridge into the corridor, hand on weapon. He came into view and saw Helga with some kind of electric stun tool, points arcing dramatically, at the airlock inner hatch, and Laseiag just behind her, shotgun ready up, both staring down whoever was in the airlock. Helga looked like some ancient warrior goddess, Laseiag looked like an emperor who was about to take an interest in a misbehaving subject. Whoever was in the airlock must have backed out, Adam heard his gurgling yell as he climbed back up and suddenly found himself exiting the Flower's maneuver field and falling "up" into 496's contrary gravity well. Helga reached in and shut the outer airlock hatch, while Laseiag without a word secured his weapon and headed back to engineering.

Helga was standing tall and staring straight ahead. She turned to Adam and dead-panned. "Beautiful man."

Adam laughed as he slid back onto the bridge. "Are they swimming?" he asked Natasha as he surveyed his panel. 90%.

"They appear to be capable."

"Chief Laseiag, maneuver envelope status."

"Clear."

"Take us up," he said to Natasha. She rolled the boat to orientation and lifted for altitude, then settled back to 1G ordinary.

Adam looked back. He could see the girl with the obsidian mirror, and then she was falling behind and gone.

Adam surveyed his panel again, then closed his eyes and took a breath. He lined up the ship's intercomm. "Well ladies and gentlemen, yet another successful contact, or at least no-one died and we don't owe anyone any money. Don't know if we'll get an award for that one but I'm sure we'll remember it. And Helga I know the kids will remember you."

"Did Natasha obtain information regarding the Purdue?" Laseiag intercommed back.

He looked over at her, and she nodded. "Yes, her observation skills really paid off, and she's plotting a course right now," he pointed to her panel and she set to work, "to where the Purdue's robot was seen up and running. After which she is going to bed," she glanced at him but said nothing, "and on landing I think we can call it a day. Helga do we have any eye protection for lasers?"

"I am unaware of such equipment. I will search."

"Chief Laseiag do you have any welding protective equipment that is effective against low-powered lasers?"

"I do not know if it is rated for that, I will have to research."

Natasha passed a set of coordinates to Adam and he found it on the planet map. Under the glacier, riverine, transition terrain.

"You sure about this?"

"No," he glanced at her, "but the description was simple and clear and he referenced a landmark that should identify it positively once it is seen," she answered.

"Helga please check the data I've been given and see if you can tell us anything about it."

After a moment, "Yes. A floral bio-locus, probably a source of food for hunter-gatherers."

Adam nodded at Natasha. "OK, we'll scan for inhabitants of interest before landing." He looked at Natasha. "Long day, the rabbit should be waking up soon, I've got the conn, go lay down."

She didn't argue. "You have the conn." He looked sideways at her. She unbuckled slowly, then carefully eased up, obviously in significant pain and trying to stay off of her left leg entirely.

Adam commed, "Helga to the bridge please."

"I need no help," she said, looking down and not moving.

"Yeah I know, but you'll heal faster if you get it. I'm sorry we let you stay up at all, but events carried us away and you're so tough." He scanned his panel again then put his hand on her forehead. Maybe a little too long. She tolerated it. No fever, at least not yet.

"Call me for landing," she said.

"That's OK, I got it."

"That is a violation of procedure."

He started to say something. "If I need you, I'll call," he finished. He looked her in the eye.

She seemed to accept that.

Helga eased in and helped her out.

"Helga stay with her, make sure she doesn't suddenly come down with rabbit fever or something."

"Yes."

He watched the local star shifting overhead and the mountain approaching.

Almost there.

How to do this ....
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