Сборники Художественной, Технической, Справочной, Английской, Нормативной, Исторической, и др. литературы.


    * * *   --------------------------------------   * * *

             " J A S O N   T H E   R E S C U E R "

              Infinity City series book #2, 7Mar94.

            Copyright 1991-1994 By Douglas K. Bell

               This work is registered with the
                   THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS.

                      * Reg. No. 537383 *

                  All Int'l rights reserved.

    * * *   --------------------------------------   * * *

    This document is for use only by permission of the
    author and may not be sold, licensed, or rented.

>>>  If you would like "SEARCH FOR KATZ", the next exciting
    book in the series, just email me!

    * * *   --------------------------------------   * * *


                        DOUGLAS K. BELL
                      Pleasanton, California
                  Email:  dougbell@netcom.com

    * * *   --------------------------------------   * * *

     N O W ,   L E T   T H E   S T O R Y   B E G I N  ! !

(Note:  Pretend words in all CAPITALS are really in *italics*! )

1. HOME.

    Jason left the happy occasion of his parents 100th
anniversary party slightly early, feeling a little miffed at
still not being able to talk them into having more children.  He
quietly left their little apartment above their family store, a
curio shop of exotic items from around the Galaxy, and headed to
his electric rent-a-car parked along the street here in the
quaint little section of Infinity City known as Oldtown, where he
had grown up.  Jason had actually only recently returned to
Infinity City.  *1. (See footnotes at end of this chronicle.)
With the extraordinary amount of money resulting from his last
rescue mission of a stranded space vessel, he had purchased for
his parents an anniversary gift of 100 years supply of the PILL
OF LIFE.  *2.  They were extremely grateful, as the PILL was
expensive, and their only source of income was from their little
curio shop.  Their old supply of the PILL was almost out.  'What
would they look like if they started to age?' he wondered.
Strange to think...  Yes, it had been a happy reunion with them,
in spite of the mysterious little audio tape they had acted so
strangely about, now tucked safely into the pocket of his flight

    Now, it was down to the shining Infinity City gold souqs to
make his final purchases prior to sailing away tomorrow morning
on his next rescue mission of a huge derelict colonial space
craft, lost somewhere up in the Galaxy outside the black hole of
Infinity City.  *3.  Miraculously, he had just finished all his
provisioning that very day ahead of schedule and all that was
left was to purchase a good supply of pure, soft buttery-yellow
gold ingots for trading with colonists aboard the stranded ship
he was looking for.  Often in the past, the broken down ships
that he had rescued had contained surprising and amazing cargoes
that he would sell for high profits back on Infinity City.

    He folded his tall, well-toned physique into his little,
automatic rent-a-car and instructed it to take him to the Oldtown
gold souqs.  Jason had gone on the PILL before his aging began
and perpetually looked like he was still a radiant young man in
his early twenties.  Exercising frequently, vigorously, almost
religiously, he kept himself in the best shape that he could.
This was a tradition among the Adventurers of Infinity City.  It
had another Grand Purpose for Jason, though.  HE could not resist
the challenge of a pretty lady (single ladies only, of course...
usually).  He had blue eyes and wavy almost-blonde hair that
would always blow around at the slightest breeze giving him a
wild look; as if his personality was not wild enough.  He tried
to keep his hair short, but always preoccupied with preparation
or execution of a rescue, it tended to get a little too long.
Slightly sunken cheeks and a fair complexion gave him a
misleadingly austere look when he was calm and a frightful
grimacing scowl when he was roused.  Jason was the epitome of the
Infinity City Adventurer ideal.  Wild, a little greedy, uncanny
clever, light-hearted, passionate and always at odds with the
ultimate authority of the Grand Dames.  But, when it came to the
actual execution of an Adventure, he was dead serious.

    He also had a small secret tattoo that he would brag about
to peak the curiosity of young ladies.  It could be viewed in
only the most intimate of circumstances.  Jason was, after all, a

    His prize feature, to him, was a small scar down the left
cheek of his clean-shaven face, won during a battle in his active
duty with Infinity City's Militia Guard.  In conversation,

especially with ladies, he would stroke his left cheek with a
finger, to draw attention to the impressive little scar, hoping
for someone to ask about the story behind it, which had grown
into quite a remarkable tale, over the years.

    He had even gotten to tell this, his favorite tale, twice
during the evening at his parent's anniversary.  An opportunity
came to tell it a record third time, but his parents, bored after
having heard it countless times before, demanded that Jason tell
them all the exciting details regarding his UPCOMING rescue
mission.  He sighed and agreed.  He took rescue missions very
seriously (about the only thing he took seriously, his parents
worried) and would have preferred to jabber away about the
dangers and successful completion of some past mission already
under his belt.  But, his parents and friends were crowded
around, leaning forward, eagerly awaiting something new, and they
had all heard his other stories before anyway.

    He told them about how, at the Infinity City Grand Library,
he had performed exhaustive computer searches of news releases
from all over the Galaxy to find anything about spaceships in
need of rescue.   He learned about a famous case, in which a huge
space-liner full of over nine hundred colonists, from a modern
world named CONOVER around RIGEL, had been reported missing
eighty-seven years ago.  The 'Heaven,' it was called.  The
purpose of its important voyage was to colonize a newly
discovered planet, only a few stars away from RIGEL.  The voyage
should have taken only about ten years.  (They only had primitive
ion-engines, though, at least, with direct mass-conversion
nuclear power.)

    After it was reported missing, by the advanced scouts at the
new world, search ships were sent out but mysteriously found
nothing between the HEAVEN'S origin and destination.  No debris,
no trace, no radio distress messages.  Conover loyally continued
the search for decades!  The regretful conclusion of the official
investigation was that it must have gone off course and
tragically had been lost.

    Jason had his own exciting theory of what happened, though.
Its course was near one of Infinity City's main Militia Guard
patrol routes, around one of the "neighbors".  *4.  Jason's eyes
widened and he grew animated telling the expectant crowd about a
wonderful clue to the ship's mysterious disappearance.  Only five
years before, Jason, on active duty with the Militia Guard, had
been assigned a patrol mission around that very same "neighbor."
Before he left, he had received the usual briefing, but this one
had an urgent addendum regarding a dangerous gravitonic whirlpool
that had just been reported by an Adventurer newly arrived on
Infinity City.  Jason had remembered this because the report
related an amazing account of how the Adventurer himself had
gotten caught in the whirlpool, been slung out catastrophically
near the speed of light and thus so slowed down in time that when
he finally returned to Infinity City, though only a few ship-
board months had passed to get back, he discovered that 93 years
had passed on Infinity City since he had last been there.

    Time aboard a spaceship or anything traveling near the speed
of light, adhering to the Law of Relativity, slows down and
approaches a stopping point at the exact speed of light, which
cannot normally be reached since this would take an infinite
amount of energy.  The sailships of Infinity City employ the
probabilistic field shift method, reeling out gigantic sails of
special molecularly laminated material that redirect the
gravitons about the ship, utilizing the phenomenal effects of
gravitons upon local probability.

    The report prudently noted that his wise investments in the
Infinity City Militia Bond fund had made him so wealthy, that he
had moved away to retire on some obscure planet around RIGEL.

    When Jason had seen the news report at the library about the
missing colony ship and read that its course had been near his
old patrol area, he had become very interested.  When he read
that the ship had been from RIGEL, he remembered the Adventurer's
report regarding the whirlpool which had been very near to the
ship's planned route.  Jason surmised that the whirlpool had
swung the ship way off-course, probably also slinging it so close
to the speed of light that the crew were now living too slow to
have transmitted a distress call yet.  On the colony ship, it may
have only been a few days or just A FEW HOURS since the

    Jason told the expectant crowd, that he planned to sail off
to the whirlpool and begin searching the gravitonic currents
radiating out, for the lost ship.  The original searchers, from
the colony ship's home planet, had no gravitonic technology and
so never searched these currents.  The colony ship, according to
Jason, was probably sliding along one of them at near light

    Everyone had grown just as excited as Jason about the story.
Everyone except his two parents, who just stood looking at each
other with a serious look of silent communication which Jason
noted wryly most married people always seemed to develop.  He
asked, "WHAT, are you two thinking now?"

    His mother conspiratorially asked his father, "Should we
tell him?"

    His father said with irritation, "I don't want to tell him.
You tell him!"

    "I can't!  It was hard enough making that tape."

    "Then, let's just give him the tape like we planned to

    Jason asked, "What tape?  What IS all this?"

    His father addressed his mother, "Go get the tape, Maynyn"
She went off to search for it.  His father turned to him, but
could not meet his gaze.  "Jason, this story you just told us
reminded us of something that happened a long time ago.  Long
before you were even born.  Something happened that...  Well,
that we aren't very proud of.  And, that really turned bad,
and...", his voice was beginning to shake.  He stopped and took a
deep breath.  "You should know.  During your last absence, we sat
down and recorded a tape of the whole story.  I just can't tell
you about it!  Now, look.  Let's just forget it.  This is a happy
night."  His mother returned with a small audio tape.  His father
said, "Here, just take this tape and listen to it during."

    Jason tried to learn more about the mysterious contents of
the tape, but they would say nothing.  He finally just put the
tape in his jacket pocket and change the subject, bringing up a
topic he had hounded them about for years now.  "You know, when I
come back from an Adventure, something is really missing.  Other
Adventurers come back and are welcomed by their huge families.  I
just have you two.  I was just wondering if you two had been
thinking about what you promised me to think about.  Remember?
Before my last voyage?"

    His father rolled his eyes, "Oh, Jason, not this again!"

    Jason stubbornly drove on, "You promised that you would
think about having more kids!  I hate having such a small family.
I love you two, sure, but I want brothers and sisters and nieces
and nephews so much!  You two need to get on the ball here."

    His mother looked down in embarrassment, then walked away to
go talk to some of the other guests.  His father squinted at him.
"There's nothing stopping YOU from getting married, Jason.
You're 45."  And then dryly,  "I think you're just about mature

    Jason did not know if he was being serious or sarcastic.  In
any case, settling down was the lowest of his priorities at this
point in time.  "Dad, come on. I haven't found the right girl
yet."  He grinned his ear to ear grin.  "I'm sure looking around
a lot, though!"  Then, returning doggedly to his obsessive quest
for siblings, he cajoled, "Come on, why won't you have more kids?
You both came from big families!  Why not?  What is the damn
mystery here?!"

    His father looked at him sharply, "You want to know the
mystery?  Why we don't have more kids?  Listen to the damn tape
and you'll find out!  Now come on, let's forget about it.  It's
our anniversary tonight, everybody's having a good time.  You
gave us a wonderful gift.  You're our wonderful son and you're
about to leave again, so let's just have a good time, too...
Hey, did you read in the JOURNAL OF RECENT ADVENTURE about your
friend John One bringing back Van Gogh?  That's incredible!"

    Jason had not felt like small talk.  Soon, he had said his
good-byes and left.

    Jason pulled his car away from the curb of his parents'
little two-story curio shop and apartments.   Looking up into
Infinity City's nighttime sky, he noticed that someone was
playing a laser show.  Thick, fuzzy beams of pistachio green and
hot pink drew wild geometric shapes through the nighttime mist
being released at the very top of Infinity City's atmosphere.
Infinity City was located midway between the first and second
event horizons within a black hole, about halfway toward the
center of the Galaxy.  It was roughly disk shaped and was
surrounded by an artificial atmosphere, held in place by
artificial gravity and heated by a revolving artificial sun.
Probably the most stunning and complex creation of mankind,
Infinity City had been built by the mysterious Original Builders
many millennia ago.

    Jason began to feel the usual home-sickness prior to leaving
on one of his self-appointed rescue missions.  Sometimes he was
gone for many years.  Finding lost ships always took a long time
and never ending patience and persistence.  And, sometimes the
repairs could take over a year.  His wonderful sailship cruiser
was outfitted with an amazing workshop where he could perform
electronic repairs, machining, software programming, even
woodcraft (a hobby during the long months in space).  He had even
repaired one ship captain's noisy plumbing in exchange for some
rare zoo animals which he had transported and sold back on
Infinity City.

    He spontaneously decided to stop by the WELL OF THE WISH and
pay his respects to the Original Builders.  *5.  Legend had it
that they had one by one all jumped down.  He told the car to go
there instead.  The WELL was at the center of Oldtown and also
the precise center of Infinity City itself, which meant that it

was exactly at the center of the Black Hole Normal Line.  From
outside a black hole, the event horizon is the shape of a
spherical shell.  Relative to the inside of a black hole, all
event horizons are points.  (See subsequent I.C. chronicles for
interesting accounts of adventures within various other event
horizons...)  The Horizon Normal Line, an imaginary line between
the first and second event horizon, plays a crucial role in
astronavigation.  When a sailship leaves Infinity City, its
temporal point of emergence, back in the outside universe, is a
function of the ship's exit angle to the Horizon Normal Line.

    After a few minutes, the car pulled into the small parking
lot outside the wall surrounding the WELL.  A little old man, too
poor to afford the Pill, sat snoring in the guard booth, his chin
resting on his chest.  Jason grinned and stole quietly past,
through the open gate in the wall and into the translucent
roofed-over interior.  The lighting was subdued.  He moved to the
old black and red brick cistern and looked inside.  At the
bottom, far below Infinity City, was the second event horizon.
Tonight, it was a bright white whirling star, that looked very
far away.  Some said what you saw determined your future.  Jason
did not believe superstitious nonsense.  However, he had a
reverence for the forces that kept the Universe running.

    Looking into the WELL before a rescue reminded him of two
things:  The powerful forces of nature he would have to deal with
in space.  And, how the Original Builders, his forefathers, had
bent these forces, no matter how immense, to their purpose.

    He longed for a cigarette or a cigar, but they were
currently banned and he had not yet found a supply anywhere.  Oh,
well.  Smoking gave him bad breath, anyway...

    He turned away from the WELL and left.  Just as Jason exited
the gate, another car pulled up and out sprang Vincent Van Gogh
with paintbrush and palette.  He stormed toward the gate.  Jason
had just been introduced to him the day before.  As he passed,
Jason greeted him, "Hi, Vincent!", but Van Gogh ignored him and
marched through the gate.  TEMPERAMENTAL ARTISTS!  Jason thought
to himself.  (See previous chronicle for a full account of Van
Gogh on Infinity City...)

    He hopped back into his car and told it to take him to the
gold souqs.  The car rolled off and after a few minutes, pulled
into the busy street adjacent to the bright, flashy gold souqs.
It was a busy night and the car took a while to find a parking
place.  Finally, Jason was able to jump out.  The street was
brightly lit from the intense indoor lighting reflecting a
fortune in gold shining out of all the shops.  He looked up at
the dazzling store fronts, with all sorts of gold jewelry hanging
in display.  He turned, walked down the street a way, wishing he
had brought sunglasses, and turned into one of the narrow,
connecting alleys between each avenue of the souqs.  This one
lead to the second row of souqs.  He was looking for a particular
merchant, who always had an amazing variety and who would give
Jason his usual "discount" without Jason having to waste any time
haggling.  He quickly found the store.  It stood out among its
neighbors, as if its owner took far more pride in his business.
He went up to the large glass door and it slowly swung open
automatically triggered by his presence.  It was about three
inches thick, made to withstand intrusion.

    Inside was a flaming, dazzling fortune in golden glory!
Finely worked jewelry with and without precious gems hung
everywhere.  The decor this time was all wood flooring &
paneling, with bamboo furniture.  The soft, light toned wooded

wall panels seemed to glow with a life of their own reflecting
the hanging long gold chains, bracelets, rings, and more.  The
overhead lighting was tuned to make the gold as instinctively
alluring to the human eye as possible.  Jason felt the excited
stupefaction that always overcame anyone surrounded by the most
ancient of mankind's treasures.  Gold was still precious, too
expensive to synthesize, even for the "alchemists" of Infinity

    Several young clerks genially waited on customers.  Jason
looked for the owner and saw him just coming out of the back room

    The owner, a Mr. Abu originally from the Earth, spotted
Jason and recognized him immediately.  He moved toward Jason and
greeted him,  "Ah, Mr. Jason, my friend!  It has been so long!
Over one year!  I read about your latest rescue in the JOURNAL.
*6.  Breathtaking Adventure, my friend, breathtaking!"  He was
wearing the customary robe of the Infinity City gold merchant,
bright starched white.  On his head, he wore laurel leaves of
very thin gold, each leaf tipped with a tiny, sparkling diamond.

    Jason said, "Over sensationalized, I'm sure, Mr. Abu.  How
have you been?  Prosperous year?"

    "Ehh...  I get by, I get by.  My wife, she leaves me with
nothing.  All profit goes directly to her.  Why do I work so
hard?!", he shook his head in mock-misery.  He was very old and
had deep lines about his eyes and mouth that made him look a
tragic figure, which he often used to play upon the sympathies of
lady clientele.  The PILL OF LIFE did nothing for wrinkles.  He
obviously had avoided the Infinity City plastic surgeons, opting
instead for the distinctive look of wizened age, accentuated by
his drooping, long pointed nose and long, gray pointed beard.

    "Well, that's why I'm not married," Jason said with a sly
grin.  "Tomorrow, I'm sailing away early in the morning.  I need
some gold for trading.  I haven't much time.  Can I get my usual

    "Yes, of course, my friend!"  He leaned close to Jason,
looked this way and that, then squinted one eye and said in a low
voice, "I will save you even more, Mr. Jason!  I have found a
vendor who is just new and trying to undercut his competition.
His prices are so low, he must be insane.  Maybe some offworld
syndicate trying to muscle in, eh?  Who knows?!  Come, let me
show you some things I think you will like."

    "Did you get any bulk ingots?"

    "Ah!"  His bushy old eyebrows shot upwards.  "I knew you
would be back someday to ask just that very question!  Yes, I
did.  Twice as many as you asked for the last time."  He put his
arm around Jason and lead him back into the private showing room.



    Jason and Mr. Abu were outside the gold souq chatting about
the usual wild goings on of Infinity City.  Jason's purchase was
in a secure leather satchel at his feet.  His hand held firmly to
the shoulder strap.  As they chatted, a boy just into his youth,

dressed in old clothes, confidently sauntered past them and into
the shop.  Mr. Abu stopped talking in mid-sentence and
suspiciously watched the boy through the display window, out of
the corner of his eye.  His gaze narrowed with deeper suspicion.

    "What's the matter?" asked Jason.

    Mr. Abu grunted, "After all these years in this business, I
now have a sixth sense about trouble.  That boy.  He's been
hanging around here for days now.  Just a child of the streets,
probably.  Maybe a laborer over in the industrial district."

    "He looks too young for that," Jason observed.

    "Street child, then.  Infinity City, the most advanced city
in the universe, still with street kids and bums!  I will never
understand," he shook his head and pulled a little control box
from a pocket up his sleeve.  He pressed a button.  He shook the
little box in Jason's face.  "This transmitter will alert my
clerks to be wary.  Look how much of my merchandise is in open
displays!  Ah, but to touch is to buy..."

    "Where's the police?  I haven't seen one patrol all night

    "Bah!" and he spat.  "There must be some big convoy in at
the space field.  They always yank the souq police for extra
customs duty.  We pay our taxes!  We deserve full protection!  I
have heard there are only three patrolmen assigned to the gold
souqs now.  This is why the kid has come here.  Well, he will
find that my staff have eyes in the backs of their heads!"

    They secretly watched the boy as he strolled around the
store with his hands behind his back, ostensibly admiring the
stunning displays of gold broaches, earrings, charms and other
fine items.  More than once, as he would slowly walk past, other
customers would sniff at the air in puzzlement, and then make
faces of disgust.

    Finally, the boy, noting the ever-watchful eyes of the
clerks, headed back the way he had come.  As he stepped outside,
he apparently tripped and bumped into Jason leaning back against
the store front.  He looked up at Jason, to excuse himself, their
eyes met, and then for a moment they just looked curiously at
each other.  The boy was thin, with unkempt, dark brown hair,
dark eyes, dark complexion.  To Jason's puzzlement, there seemed
something hauntingly familiar about him.  As Jason opened his
mouth to ask him who he was, the boy quickly excused himself and
walked away, disappearing into the next alleyway down the street.

    "Do you know him?", the gold merchant asked suspiciously.

    "No, not at all!", replied Jason.

    "You looked at him as if you knew his face."

    "Something about him.  Thought I'd seen him before, I

    "Yes, maybe working around the space field.  Jason," he
said, touching Jason's arm.  "Check you pockets."

    "What?  Why?", Jason asked baffled.

    "Pickpockets.  Have you never heard of them??"

    Jason groaned, then smiled as he felt his valuables safe and
secure, "Look, all tab-lock pockets.  I have a tough enough time
opening them, let along a thief."

    "What about that open breast pocket?", Abu said, pointing to
a pocket in Jason's flight jacket without any tab lock, meant for

    Jason began, "I don't keep anything there...", then he
remembered the tape from his parents.  He had put it in that
pocket!  He checked the pocket.  It was empty.  The tape was

    Instantly enraged, he cried, "Hold this!", tossed the handle
to his bag of gold to Mr. Abu and then sprang off in the
direction the boy had gone.  He, decided the boy would heading
deeper into the maze of souqs.  Jogging up to the alleyway, he
turned into it, heading toward the 3rd avenue.  The alley sides
were two stories high and featureless, except for low footlights,
at regular intervals.  Each side of the alley could be touched by
extending both arms.  The boy was not to been seen.

    Jason emerged into the 3rd avenue.  He looked to the left.
Nothing, just more souqs with ornate signs hanging from elaborate
glittering, golden metalwork hangers and shoppers leisurely
strolling along the boardwalks before all the storefronts.  He
looked to the right...  The boy!  He was walking up the street
and, as Jason watched, turned into the alley leading to the 4th

    Jason ran up to this alley and peeked around the corner.  He
saw the lad walking down the alley with a bouncing confident
gate, slapping a bulging trouser pocket smugly.  This must be the
tape.  The tape was in a little black metal box.  Jason thought
that the boy would probably think it contained gold or some other

    As soon as he reached 4th avenue, he turned to the left.
Jason decided to surprise him.  He turned and ran back up 3rd
avenue, to the next alley and then ran into it, running as fast
as he could to pop out of the alley just as, he calculated, the
boy would reach it.

    He burst out of the alley, expecting to confront the boy
face to face.  But, the boy was not there!  Jason looked up the
avenue and there was the boy, leaning against the corner, next to
the alley he had just left, examining the little black tape box!
He took one look at Jason and jolted with surprise.  The tape
case flew up in the air.  The boy deftly snatched it back, then
sprung forward, dashing across 4th avenue toward the mouth of the
alley to 5th avenue.

    Jason started after him, then decided to veer to his left
and go through the alley across from the one he had just left.
Maybe the boy would turn left at the end of the alley.

    Just as the boy entered the alley, he quickly stole a glance
in Jason's direction then continued forward.  Jason ground to a
halt.  If this kid is smart, he thought, he'll see I'm heading
for the next avenue, so HE'LL double back!  Jason veered slightly
to the right and ran to the storefronts next to the alley the
youth had taken.  He leapt up to the old-fashioned wooden
boardwalk and pounded off toward the alley to hopefully catch the
boy should he double back.  The boardwalk was only wide enough
for two or three people.  Eveninggoers gave him haughty looks as
he rudely slid past them.

    He was almost to the alley, when a man and woman, arm in
arm, stepped up from it to the boardwalk, having just crossed
from the opposite boardwalk.  Jason veered slightly to the left
to pass the couple as he jumped into the alley, hopefully to land
dramatically right in front of the boy.  Unfortunately, in the
doorway just a step ahead, Jason was unable to foresee the two
men carrying out a heavy crate, containing an extremely heavy
solid gold statue of a Militia Guard sailship.  The lead man, who
was very fat, was backing out, chomping on a fat, illegal cigar
and had not seen the child's toy laying in the doorway.  He
stepped out toward the boardwalk and right on to the toy.   His
foot slipped forward, back under the crate.  He lost his balance
and began falling backwards, right into the startled couple now
opposite the doorway.

    The big fellow would have been seriously hurt by the heavy
crate falling on him, had Jason not, running at top speed,
crashed into him.  As the crate crashed down to the boardwalk,
the two toppled past it and into the mouth of the alley, the fat
man landing with a loud grunt, the cigar still in his face.  Just
as Jason crashed to the ground, landing on his back, he saw the
boy, who had sure enough doubled back up the alley.  Without
pausing, the boy leap gracefully through the air, right over both
Jason and the fat man.  As the boy landed, he twisted around, his
longish black hair sweeping over his face, and looked down at
Jason.  He laughed merrily, shaking the tape box in the air
triumphantly, and dashed off up 4th avenue.

    Jason dislodged himself from the fat man, who had begun
swearing and cursing profusely because the red-hot tip of his
cigar had fallen into his shirt.  The man and woman had nimbly
dodged back from the falling crate and were now standing on the
edge of the boardwalk curiously watching the two men lying in the
dirt, the fat man frantically grabbing at his shirt to dislodge
the heater.

    Jason jumped to his feet unhurt and tore off after the boy,
who was racing across the avenue diagonally, making for the alley
on the opposite side.  He was very fast and disappeared into the
alley before Jason was even halfway across the street.  Jason,
thinking once again to outsmart the lad, veered back up the
street toward the alley directly across from the one in to which
he had fallen.  He had a hunch that when the boy reached the 3rd
avenue, to fool his pursuer, he would turn in the direction of
Mr. Abu's gold souq heading back the way he had come, instead of
getting farther away.  Jason ran into the alley, running faster
and faster.

    By the end of the alley, he was running at full speed.  He
spread his arms wide thinking to emerge right in front of the
lad, but again the boy was not where he had predicted.  Quickly
looking around, he caught a glimpse of the boy disappearing down
the alley across from the one he had emerged from.  He was
heading back to the 2nd avenue.

    Jason was now getting winded.  He ran on, though, crossed
the 3rd avenue and ducked into the alley heading for the 2nd
avenue.  When he emerged onto the 2nd avenue, he looked this way
and that, but there was no sign of the boy.  He tiredly turned
around and pumped back down the alley to check for him on 3rd
avenue.  But, the boy was gone.

    Jason shook his fists in the air, stamped on the ground and
growled out several curses.  He then took a few deep breaths then
trudged up the 3rd avenue and over to the alley the boy had

    On his way up the alley, toward the 2nd avenue, he suddenly
heard a hooting siren some distance away.  It sounded like the
anti-theft siren of a rent-a-car!  HIS rent-a-car!

    He dashed off in the direction of the sound, leaving 2nd
avenue and heading back into the first alleyway he had taken.  He
emerged out of the alleyway onto the sidewalk along the main
street, brightly lit up by all the dazzling gold souqs to both
sides.  Electric cars whizzed back and forth before him.  He
looked in the direction of the siren sound and there was HIS
rent-a-car with all lights blinking in rhythm with the siren.
Inside, someone was struggling to get out.  Jason had left the
car unlocked, since he had the key to make it go and there was
nothing valuable inside.  The current occupant of the rent-a-car
must have tried something unauthorized, for car had automatically
locked him inside.

    Jason grinned, rubbed his hands together and walked over to
the car.  Placing one hand on the roof, he smiled and waved with
the other at the trapped victim within.  It was the boy who had
stolen the tape!  The boy stopped thrashing around and looked up
at him furiously.  Then, he suddenly looked terrified and very
afraid.  Staring up at Jason, he folded his hands together and
shook his head slowly back and forth, with a pleading look in his

    Jason watched with arms folded, looking sternly unimpressed.

    The boy stared at Jason and his face grew blank.  Then, he
slowly reached into his shabby coat and withdrew the box with the
tape.  He looked at it, then held it up, offering it to Jason,
behind the closed window of the car door.

    For some reason, Jason was moved.  He took out his keys and
opened the door, making sure he was blocking any possible escape
by the boy.  This silenced the annoying alarm, the car even
welcomed him back with its mechanical voice.  The boy slowly,
meekly, silently handed him back the tape.  Jason took the tape,
looked at the boy's sorrowful expression and then looked down at
the tape, wondering what to do next.  But, the boy decided things

    Quick as a cat, the boy turned to the dashboard, opened a
panel and punched an emergency button.  The button was designed
to allow a passenger to instruct the car to immediately leave any
scene of imminent danger at full speed.  The car tore instantly
away, its forward acceleration enough to slam shut the open door,
with Jason's keys still stuck in the lock on the outside.  Jason
took a frustrated step in the direction of the car.  The car key,
simply being inserted into the electronic door lock, had been
enough to enable driver control!

    Jason stared dumbfounded.  The last thing he saw was the
boy, staring back with a curiously serious expression, and then
the car disappeared around the very next corner.  In frustration,
Jason jammed the tape back into his pocket.

    He walked back to the souq to get his satchel of gold, then
used the telephone to report the stolen vehicle and request that
another drive itself over to the souqs for him.

    But wait!  The keys!  The damn kid had driven away with the
keys to Jason's sailship!  Fortunately, he had spares in his
wallet.  He decided to head directly to the space port as soon as
the rent-a-car replacement arrived.  There was no label or
anything on the sailship keys linking them to his ship, so there

was little danger of the kid breaking into it, at least not right
away, with all the dozens of other sailships currently in port.
But it would be best to proceed to the ship, then tell his ship's
computer not to let anyone but him in until he had the locks
changed.  The locks were only there in case of computer failure
anyway.  Fortunately, the computer could override the locks


    Jason rolled up to his wonderful sailship in the rent-a-car,
got out, tugged the leather satchel of gold out of the trunk and
hoisted it to his shoulder.  He told the car to return to its
dealer and it rolled away.  He was very tired.  It had taken a
long argument over the gold souq's phone to talk the rent-a-car
company into sending a replacement.  They acted as if it was HIS
fault that the car had been stolen.  Then, in exasperation, he
had waited over an hour for the replacement rent-a-car.

    Jason looked up at his beloved sailship rising majestically
before him.  What a beauty!  It was shaped like an upside-down
bowl, about 20 meters at its greatest diameter, dark gray in
color, with several landing legs elevating it a foot or two above
the tarmac of the space port.  The conning tower bulged out at
the top, containing the gravitonic propulsion systems and the
pilot room in the center.  There was a ring of round view ports
near the top below the conning tower and other view ports, here
and there around its lower perimeter.  At the very top and at
four locations around the lowest perimeter, gravitonic sail-pods
bulged out, housing the struts that moved in and out, along which
the fantastic gravitonic sails were run up and unfurled.

    Jason trudged up to where the main hatch was located.  It
was smoothly flush with the sailship's side and was not even easy
to see, unless you were close.  Jason spoke, "Hi, honey!  I'm
home!  Open up..."  The ship's computer had transponders all over
the surface of the ship, that monitored all types of input,
including audio.  The computer recognized his voice.  Its
sophisticated, pattern recognition neural-network long ago having
learned to filter away his nonsense and translate his
colloquialisms.  The hatch slowly swung open rotating forward,
the hinge on the bottom, lowering silently to the ground at his
feet, forming a ramp from the tarmac, up into the ship.

    Jason lugged the gold up the steep ramp and into the air
lock.  The air lock was a small, cubic chamber with several
storage lockers containing equipment for extra-vehicular activity
such as repairs or docking with other space craft.

    He ordered, "Let me in!"  The outer hatch began to rotate
slowly closed.  This particular air lock had a safety feature
built in preventing both the outer and inner hatch to ever be
opened at the same time, which would fatally suck out the ship's
air in the vacuum of outer space, or admit the poison soup many
planets had for atmospheres.

    The outer hatch clanged shut, then, with a hissing sound
magnetically sealed itself tightly shut .  Finally, the inner
hatch unsealed and swung smoothly open to the side revealing the
large wedge-shaped cargo hold.  Below the pilot room, the ship
was divided into four quarter sections.  The cargo hold occupied
one of these.  Jason walked in feeling he was home.  He was!

    He sniffed the air.  It smelled fine!  FINALLY!, he thought
with great satisfaction.  He had been having trouble with the
cleaning system for the last two years, ever since the ship's
last major overhaul.  The ship had only three little hard-working
robots and too much of their time was spent cleaning.  After the
many upgrades to the ship, it had taken two years for him to get
the robots' cleaning schedule software programmed to a point
where everything got cleaned as fast as possible, and in just the
right cycle to prevent any source of stench, a tricky problem for
any space ship due to the completely recycled environment of
food, waste, humidity, and all the 'junk' emitted by human
bodies.  But, finally it was working and the ship smelled fresh
as new!  Everything was just balanced.  He thought, 'Any change
to the balance would probably screw up the damn software again!'
But, there were no big changes coming.  Except for one big one
that he did not know about yet!

    He went over to an empty storage locker, crouched down, then
stashed the gold securely so that it would not jostle loose
during liftoff, or through the passage out of the first event
horizon.  Then, he remembered something and stood up quickly.

    "Computer," he said addressing the ship's sophisticated
control system.  "There's no one in the ship besides me, is

    The ship's computer answered in a pleasant, female voice,

    "Has anyone else but me been in the ship?"


    Satisfied, Jason wondered what to do next.  He probably
should have gone to bed.  It was 9 P.M.  Or, he could actually
lift off now.  Everything was ready!

    He stood there in the cargo hold rubbing his chin.  And, the
more he thought about it, the more excited he felt about the
prospect of being up in deep space again.  Master of his own
fate!  Tearing through the gravitonic currents in his wonderful,
late-model sailship.  Adrenaline and other hormones started to
course through his veins.  The miraculous PILL kept a man young
feeling forever!  Unfortunately, this tended to result in rash
decision-making on the part of some men of Infinity City.  So
much so, in fact, that political control had, through the eons,
and for the sake of security, been taken over by Infinity City's
grand ladies:  the Grand Dames.

    With a little chuckle, Jason suddenly headed toward the
center of the ship, the apex of the pie-shaped cargo hold.  Here,
a door opened into a high, circular central chamber with three
other doors, the one on his left opening into the hardware
workshop, the one across from him opening into the living quarter
and the one on his right opening into his "software sanctum."  A
vertical ladder recessed in a shallow slot in the wall ran up one
side of the chamber, from the floor up to the ceiling and on up
through a hatch which opened up into the pilot room.  The "floor"
was actually an elevator, designed for moving the heavy
components of the gravitonic sail system and other equipment into
the conning tower of the ship.  The sail control systems occupied
most of the conning tower, surrounding the small pilot room at
the center.

    Jason always used the ladder because frequent exercise was
important, during the boring months of space travel, to keep a

clear head.  The hatch in the ceiling automatically slid open,
recessing into the bulkhead, as he neared it.  He clambered up
into the little pilot room and the hatch slid closed again.

    A shiver of excitement ran through him, as he looked around
the pilot room at all the sophisticated control panels, computer
displays and all the panels containing the powerful gravitonic
generators and other systems rising all around behind.  IT'S ALL
MINE! he thought to himself, with swelling pride.  He had started
life humbly.  For his first rescue mission, he had to borrow a
dangerous old, barely space-worthy sailship.  But, it had been a
financially rewarding Adventure as were almost all of his
following rescue missions.  He had purchased this amazing craft
only a few years ago.  It was not only his ship; it was his home.

    He looked up.  The roof of the conning tower was a
transparent dome.  Through it, he saw the night sky of Infinity
City.  High overhead, very far away, was the red "eye" of the
first event horizon, his target.  Streaming down from it were
soft, multicolored streamers of crushed matter.  Beyond the space
port, he could see an excursion skip floating along, with
hundreds of bright, twinkling little lights all over the open
basket carrying the passengers.  The gravitonic sails billowed

    WHAT A CITY OF MAGIC!  He thought.  And, yet, it was the
challenge and mystery and Adventure of outer space that attracted

    Grabbing the back of the luxurious, thickly upholstered
control chair in the center of the pilot room, he swiveled it
around and plopped down into its accustomed comfort.  He pulled
the arms of the control chair inward and rested his arms on the
pads, the fingers of his right hand resting on the main control
keyboard and the fingers of his left hand surrounded by the
dozens of critical special function buttons.  His feet were on
foot-rests with controls for rapidly swiveling the chair left or
right, to face any of the control panels surrounding him.  Above
the control panels, at eye level, were several computer display
screens.  From this central location, he controlled every
function of his ship:  The gravitonic sail propulsion system, the
ship's environmental and life-support functions, defensive and
offensive capabilities, even the service robots and external
mechanical manipulators.  And, yet it was all dormant, still and
dark, completely turned off, until he, the spirit, the life-force
controlling the ship, decided to turn it on.  The talented
designers of the ship had made the pilot room an amazingly
efficient and intuitive interface between man and machine.

    He looked around with satisfaction and happiness, feeling
that strong emotional attachment humans have always had with
their vehicles.

    He grinned, shook his fists with excitement and cried, "It's

    The pilot room burst into immediate life!  Panels lit up
with countless little lights and meters indicating the entire
condition of the ship.  The many flat, computer screens snapped
into instant life, showing windows of graphical data with fields
of various bright colors.  He heard the sound of cooling fans
whirring up to speed.  And, then the low, powerful rising hum of
the gravitonic systems in the surrounding panels.

    His wonderful, fantastic ship was now alive!  He felt it!
After years aboard the ship, he was intimately familiar with

every detail of its design and operation.  What a perfect
extension of the body!  What a perfect vehicle for the mind!
What a...  WHAT WAS THIS?

    Out of the corner of his eye he spotted a small, flashing
yellow light at the environmental control panel, indicating a
minor malfunction.  He looked closer and saw that it was just a
broken sensor of some cabinet in the living quarter.  A non-
critical system.  He punched in an acknowledgment and the little
yellow light stopped flashing.  There would be plenty of time to
fix that once he was outside the black hole.  The trip to the
whirlpool would take about four months!  There would be plenty to
do.  Repairs about the ship.  New talents to cultivate.  An
abridged copy of the Infinity City Library to explore and study.
The ship's computer was an intelligent companion, but still not
human.  He would be alone.  That was the tough part.  All of his
activity had one main purpose:  To keep his mind off loneliness.

    Ah, well.  Someday, he knew that he would meet the perfect
girl.  The perfect companion for his infinite life.  Someone to
understand him completely, to enjoy the same things he enjoyed,
to always take his side.  He simply could not understand why it
was taking so long!  Maybe on this trip, he would meet some
sweet, little colonist, sweep her off her feet and talk her into
coming back with him to the splendor of Infinity City.

    Jason was now anxious to lift off.  He quickly checked all
the panels.  Everything else was fine.  "Computer, perform all
pre-flight tests, now," he commanded.  The computer's main
response screen displayed the details of the pre-flight testing
of all systems, which simply verified the status already
displayed by all the surrounding control panels.  The testing now
in progress was actually carried out completely by the ship's
backup systems,  which also included a backup computer, to check
out their redundant functions.  This was a tough, safe sailship;
the best that the money from his missions of rescue could buy!

    Once all primary and backup systems checked out, it was time
to coordinate the liftoff through Launch Control in the space
port's control tower, the tallest structure in Infinity City.
Jason activated the closed circuit TV connection to the tower and
directed its display to the screen before him.  The crest of the
family responsible for the space port appeared.  He scowled.
AREN'T THEY EVER THERE IN PERSON?  This meant that the last voice
he would hear from Infinity City would be that of the space port
computer.  Oh, well...  A flat voice spoke from the screen,
"Infinity City space port control.  Please identify."

    "This is J. Jason, commanding class-E sailship, ID: Jason-
Rescue-Three.  Request immediate, asynchronous launch..."
Jason's full name was JASON JASON.  His father's full name was
JASON ALEXANDER WYNN.  Jason had decided to take as his last name
the patronymic, his father's first name, instead of his father's
surname, a fashionable practice of Infinity City at the time
Jason was an adolescent.  He took the name JASON JASON reflecting
his sense of humor, which often seemed to go a little too far.
Also, this avoided the attachment of JR. to his name, which would
have dampened his pride.  Many individual men of the larger
Families or 'Houses' took the patronymic to keep their Family or
'House' identity a secret for various political, business, or
romantic reasons.

    Jason's family, as far as he currently knew, consisted of
just himself, his mother Maynyn and his father Jason (Sr.), not
big enough to be considered a Family or a 'House.'  However,

there was an importance to Jason's family that he would learn in

    "Immediate, asynchronous launch granted.  Next scheduled
launch in seven hours, 35 minutes.  First horizon status:

    BOY, WAS THAT A MISNOMER!  Jason punched a special function
button initiating the launch program that he had set up a few
days ago, instructing the ship to lift off and follow the
imaginary Horizon Normal Line through the first event horizon and
out into the Galaxy, arriving into the 'Present'.

    Time within a black hole is independent of time outside in
the Galaxy.  When leaving a black hole, the angle between the
ship's exit trajectory vector and the imaginary NORMAL line
between the first and second event horizons  (Within the black
hole, both horizons appear as points.), the HORIZON NORMAL LINE,
determines the point in time at which a ship arrives outside in
the Galaxy.  The farther a sailship's angle of trajectory from
the normal line, the farther back in the past it arrives.  The
closer to the normal line, the closer to the actual, unraveling
present.  There was no known way to travel into the future
theoretically because it had not 'unraveled' yet.

    Then, he would manually pilot the ship along the
unpredictable, trans-Galactic gravitonic currents until he
reached the whirlpool that, he theorized, had tossed the colony
ship off-course.

    The gravitonic generators whined as they spun up to the
power required to overcome the artificial gravitonic field
enveloping Infinity City.  Jason felt the vibration of the sail
struts being deployed.  From four points along the lower
periphery of the sailship, and also from four corresponding
points around the conning tower, the gravitonic sail struts rose
above the ship in angular geometric patterns like long, thin
spindly metal fingers.  Jason looked up and could see the struts
rising smoothly on all sides, sub-struts angled between the main
struts, connecting and giving the entire gravitonic sail support
structure enough strength to withstand the turbulent gravitonic
currents of space.

    The screen from the control tower spoke, "Jason-Rescue-
Three, flight plan received and validated.  Have a safe
Adventure!  Do you wish to log an expected return date or
duration of Adventure?"

    HEY, THAT WAS NEW!  "What's that for?  Is there an official
search plan, now?"

    "No.  Our family has simply agreed to relay the information
only if the craft does not return before the expected date, or
within the expected duration of Adventure."

    Why publicly announce you are missing?  Well, for legal and
business reasons it made sense.  The length of a voyage was often
kept secret so competing Adventurers could not figure out the
destination.  But, signaling publicly that you were delayed might
help your affairs from getting too tangled up until you got home.

    Well, it was difficult to predict how long he would be in
space.  First, he had to find the colony ship.  Then, repair it
and return home.  But sometimes he was invited to stay aboard a
friendly spacecraft, enjoying the hospitality of the grateful

folk on board, until they grew anxious to be on their way.  There
had been one fantastic episode with a transport ship full of
several hundred single women bound for a mineral-rich new world
of almost all men.

    Now, clicking power relays and complex humming and buzzing
accompanied the reeling out of the amazing gravitonic sails.  As
they were run up the struts, they billowed slowly out between,
moved by the gentlest of breezes due to their thickness of only a
few molecules.

    The computer sent a sharp charge of electric power into the
sails, pulsing with just the right phase characteristic to cause
a resonance contraction of the sails, snapping them into place
for a crisp launch.

    His computer spoke, "Request final launch command."  The
voice it used in the pilot room or when there was trouble, was

    He loved this moment!  He eye-balled all the control panels.
Everything was ready for launch.  He thought to himself:   GOOD-
BYE, INFINITY CITY!  GOOD-BYE, MOM & DAD!  He remembered the tape
they had given to him.  He'd have to listen to it after he was
out of the black hole.

    He tapped the button marked LAUNCH.  A sharp humming
vibration sprang up as the breakers dumped the full power of the
gravitonic generators into the sails.  Telltale meters jerked and
swung, indicating the jump in power consumption and change in
sail status.

    Then, the ship lifted up and off the space port.  Jason
loved the feeling of vertigo as Infinity City's gravitonic field
pushed against him, trying to pull him back down, as his majestic
ship rose steadily higher.  Outside, through the transparent
dome, he saw for a brief few seconds the colored lights of
Infinity City at night spreading away on all sides.  Then, they
disappeared below the edge of the ship, as he moved higher and

    "Jason-Rescue-Three proceeding normally on validated
course," reported space port control.

    The ship, with its arching, gravitonic sails towering high
above the ship, pulled out of Infinity City's atmosphere, gained
speed rapidly and swung around toward the imaginary Horizon
Normal Line.  Just as it neared this, it suddenly swung about,
now exactly along the Horizon Normal Line, heading in a straight
line toward the red point of the first event horizon, the only
path that would lead a sailship out of the black hole, into
Present Time, as opposed to going back to a past time.  His view
of the inside of his black hole now dwindled as thick protective
plates rotated together covering the transparent top of the
conning tower.

    Anyone on the disk-shaped world of Infinity City watching
with a telescope would see the ship and its huge sails, grow
smaller and smaller, compared to the red, first event horizon.
Then, the ship would appear to begin turning red itself, seeming
to merge with the first event horizon, until it could be seen no


    Anyone watching the black hole from the outside would see a
black sphere, about the size of a small planet.  Actually, there
was not anything to see.  The black hole swallowed everything
that touched it, even light.  The shell surrounding the black
hole WAS the first event horizon.  The black hole was surrounded
by a halo of fiery red-appearing intense radiation of many
wavelengths, as particles from a distant star (about which the
black hole slowly orbited) accelerated to oblivion as they passed
the first event horizon.  Nothing that went in ever came out
again, except for the sailships of Infinity City.  To them, the
black hole was just a gravitonic valve between the Galactic
universe on the outside, and the quirky micro-universes on the

    If someone watching could now actually "see" the shell that
was the first event horizon, they would see it suddenly dimple
deeply inward, like the effect of the blunt end of a pencil
pushed into a balloon, forming a deep depression extending toward
the center.  This was the phenomenal effect of a sailship's
amazing gravitonic sails, backwashing the torrent of gravitons
back up and out of the black hole, pulling in a depression in the
first event horizon as the backwashing gravitonic flow reduced
the black hole's universe ripping effect.

    As soon as the depression reached the black hole's exact
center, out popped the tiny sailship, right there at the center,
to be slung out into the universe by the receding depression in
the event horizon as it inflated back up to once again form the
perfect sphere of the first event horizon.

    Jason's ship was now out in the limitless velvety blackness
of mid-Galactic space.  Far-away bright stars surrounded him on
all sides as he left the dull glowing red of the black hole far
behind.  So many stars in fact that in some areas they appeared
as cloudy swoops and swirls.  The black hole's orbital primary
star was safely far away  but still the brightest Jason could
see.  Leaving a black hole was much safer and easier than
entering one.  A sailship naturally followed the most tranquilly
gravitonic currents out, which were actually the path of least
resistance, graviton-wise.

    Jason, still at the helm of his ship, instructed the
computer to verify their temporal coordinate by checking the
configuration of several known land-mark stars.  Knowing the path
these stars continually followed, the computer could accurately
calculate exactly the position the stars should be in for any
point in time within a few ten thousands of years on either side
of the present.  The check took a few minutes, as recessed
crystalline telescopes slid open here and there around the
outside of the ship, and scanned the starscape.  Everything
checked out.  The computer reported that they were at the top of
time, the universal Present.

    Jason had always avoided travel into the past.  There were
strange paradoxes that could occur.  Like meeting oneself.  That
was a disaster of unthinkable proportions, to be avoided at all
costs.  (See subsequent I.C. chronicles...)  But, it had
happened.  Only once every few hundred years.  The stories were
fantastic and frightening, and told by Grand Dames over and over
to young men in the hopes of subduing their dreams of back-
bouncing Adventure.  *7.

    Jason began searching for a major gravitonic current in the
direction of his destination, which was the whirlpool that

supposedly had tossed the colony ship off-course.  The ship's
sensors detected a huge, lazy current on the other side of the
black hole's star, which headed off toward the direction of the
whirlpool.  Great!  He could take advantage of the nearby
gravitonic stellar wind, and tack easily over to it.

    His ship was so delightfully automatic!  It automatically
measured the gravitonic wind from the nearby star, calculated the
most efficient path, reconfigured the sails to catch the 'stiff
breeze', and moved off swiftly along.  He could, of course, slide
direct control rods out of the arms of his command chair, and
take over manual control.  This was always necessary when
entering a black hole.   But, usually, Jason enjoyed and took
pride in the ability of his sophisticated, modern sailship.

     After a quarter hour, the primary star swung past the ship,
and was left behind.  After an hour of travel the ship alerted
him that they were converging on the big gravitonic current.  He
made some final adjustments in the operating program he had just
set up, then initiated it.  The computer automatically swung the
ship about, drifting on the last few wisps of gravitons from the
star, and into the wide, tubular, gently meandering current that
seemed to go on for many light-years.

    Tremendous waves of medium speed gravitons caught the sails,
and the ship sailed off at many, many times the speed of light,
but with no slowing down of local time flow since it moved by
probabilistic-shifting instead of the more widespread action-
reaction propulsion (which increased a ship's time-slowing
kinetic energy, and prevented it from traveling faster than
light).  He instructed the computer to warn him if there was
trouble, or if the current dissipated too much, or radically
changed course.  It seemed steady enough, though.  Hopefully, he
could follow it for days.  He set the ship's automatic lighting
to mimic Infinity City's day cycle, since that was what his
circadian rhythms were currently synchronized with.

    Jason now felt very tired.  It would be late night back on
Infinity City.  What a day this had been!  His parents party, the
strange tape, the WELL, seeing Van Gogh one last time, that kid
at the gold souqs, and best of all, a thrilling launch into
space.  He heaved himself out of the command chair, kicked a wide
button near the hatch in the deck of the pilot room, and the
hatch slid away.  He was too tired to go down the ladder, so he
called for the elevator.  The floor of the central chamber
quickly lifted up until flush with the pilot room deck.  He
stepped onto it, stood straight with his arms safely at his
sides, and was lowered quickly down to the deck at the bottom of
the chamber.

    He opened the door, on the opposite side of the central
chamber from the cargo hold.  Inside, was the living area.
Galley, entertainment, laundry, medical machines, toilet,
exercise machines, storage for personal effects, and everything
else not related to business.

    The room smelled good, too!  This was the hardest room to
keep clean, and free from bacteria and spores.

    He told the computer to lower the bed.  With the hiss of
pneumatic pistons it slowly swung down from the ceiling,
suspended by four cantilevered beams.  He whipped his clothes
off, tossed them to the floor, crawled into the bed, and
commanded, "Kill the lights, sweetheart!"  Ah! the comfort of his

familiar, custom-crafted bed.  That wonderfully inevitable
feeling of sleepiness enveloped him, and he drifted off.

    The conditioning at the Militia Guard academy was said to
last forever.  Officers of the guard were trained to awaken at
any indication of threat.  Jason awoke to the click of metal.  He
did not move right away, or even open his eyes.  His mind cranked
up to speed, and his first impression was of some minor
mechanical problem that the computer did not think important
enough to awaken him.  Then he heard it again, coming from the
direction of some storage cabinets.  Jason slowly turned his head
in that direction but could see nothing with the lights out.
When he slept, he liked it pitch black, and allowed not a single
stray photon.

    He heard the sound again, and this time, an eerie feeling
made the hair on the back of his neck rise.  Then, he heard a
soft scrape.

    He whispered as quietly as he could, "COMPUTER, LIGHTS ON 1%
SLOWLY."  And then he waited.  Lights at the top of the walls
slowly began to glow, and in their barely discernible light, he
saw the dark silhouette of a person creeping slowly out of one of
the storage cabinets.  He whispered, "LIGHTS ON 30%."  The lights
snapped up immediately to 30%.  Not enough to hurt the eyes at
night, but enough to see a young boy frozen in a crouch, with one
foot behind him still inside the large storage cabinet.

    Jason sat bolt upright in bed and yelled, "Who the hell are
you?!  Computer, have the nearest robot grab this guy!"  A small
cleaning robot burst out of its storage chamber, and rolled
toward the boy extending a manipulator arm menacingly before it.
The boy gasped, and quickly ducked back inside the storage
cabinet, his bare foot disappearing inside just as the door
slammed closed.

    The robot came to a stop, and said, "Target pattern no
longer detected.  Immediate program now in endless-loop."

    Jason muttered "Acknowledged," to keep it from repeating its
message.  He sat there staring at the closed storage cabinet.  He
still felt quite sleepy.  Had he dreamt this?  No way.  That was
the kid from the gold souqs.  He'd evidently gotten into Jason's
sailship using Jason's key to the ship on the rent-a-car key-
ring.  But how had he found Jason's ship so quickly?  And, why
had the ship's computer allowed him, a perfect stranger, entry?
The computer should have alerted the port authorities, or had a
robot grab the kid.

    But wait a minute, he thought.  He had never actually sat
down and programmed the computer to react in any of those ways.
He had naturally just always assumed that the manufacturer of the
ship had done that.  "Computer, why did you let this kid in?"

    "There is no child on board."

    "Well, then, who is in that storage cabinet there??"

    "Jason Jason."

    "That's me!  Who do you think I am, then?"

    "You are Jason Jason."

    "Computer, you sense TWO Jasons?"


    The computer thought the kid was him!  That's why it didn't
do anything.  But WHAT made the computer think the kid was HIM?
Whatever the answer, the big question was:  What was to be done
with the kid?

    Turn around, and head back to Infinity City?  He'd have to
go through the damn black hole again.  And entering was a very
rough ride, hard on his ship, sometimes even resulting in costly
damage.  It was to be avoided.  And the landing fee the space
port charged!  Then, there would be an official inquiry.  And the
kid's parents!  What if they accused him of kidnapping, or

    Or, he could toss the kid out into space.  An amusing idea,
but he would never do that.  Maybe he would TELL the kid he would
do that, though.  What a problem this was going to be!

    He groaned, crawled out of bed, and pulled on some clothes
lying near his feet.  Then, he went over to the storage chamber.
"Hey, kid!  Open up.  I won't hurt you..."


    "Hey, kid.  Can you hear me?"


    Jason shrugged, squatted down, grabbed the handle, and
pulled open the door.  Suddenly, there was a hiss from the
darkness within, and deodorant spray blasted up into his face.
He jerked back cursing, lost his balance, and fell over backward.
The boy jumped out of the cabinet, and raced toward the door,
long black hair flying.  Jason jumped up to follow, but the
cleaning robot had rolled over, and now, deciding Jason was the
intruder, grabbed his leg in a painfully tight grip with its
manipulator arm.  The boy opened the door, and jumped to the
stairs leading up toward the pilot room.

    Jason weaved back and forth trying to maintain his balance.
The little robot (the green one, most stubborn of all) clung to
his leg, trying to pull him over to its storage chamber.
"Computer, tell the Green Robot to let go of my leg!"

    "Acknowledged."  Green Robot let go.  Jason went toward the
door shouting, "Computer, lock the pilot room!"

    Jason entered the central chamber just as the boy reached
the top of the stairs, and started pushing at the hatch.  Now
locked, it would not open.  He cried in a high voice, "Computer,
open this hatch!"  To Jason's astonishment the hatch opened for

    Jason put his hands on his hips, and thought, THE COMPUTER
STILL THINKS HE'S ME, TOO!  He stroked his chin in concentration.
"Computer," he spoke aloud.  "Acknowledge master password:  Jason
four Jason three Jason two Jason one Infinity City!"

    The computer responded!  "Master password acknowledged.
Associated identity is Jason Jason, birth place: Infinity City,
birth number: 55437, birth date..."

    "Cut!", he interrupted.  "Lock off all pilot room controls!"
The computer acknowledged.  WHEW!  NOW THE KID COULDN'T HURT

    He said wearily, "Computer, lift me to the pilot room."  The
floor began to rise, moving Jason upward.  He looked up.  The kid
had closed the hatch!  He said, "Computer, open the pilot room

    The computer reported, "Cannot.  An unidentified person is
standing on it.  Hatch drive servo lacks required torque power."

    The elevator brought Jason within reach of the hatch, then
came to a stop.  He reached up, knocked on it politely, and asked
with mock sweetness, "Hey, kid, may I come in?"


    "Computer, open the hatch!", he ordered.

    "Cannot.  The same unidentified person is still standing on

    "Come on, kid.  Get off the hatch!", Jason cried.  The
computer repeated its previous explanation.

    Jason temper suddenly exploded, "KID!!", he thundered.

    OH, THIS KID!, he thought with irritation, grinding his
teeth as he forced himself to calm down.  How to get the damn kid
off the hatch?!  He could tell the computer to evacuate the air
out of the pilot room!  No, that would waste air...  He could
raise the temperature...  COME ON, GET SERIOUS! he told himself.
Ah!  A simple idea...

    He grinned, "Computer," and he reached out and gripped the
ladder embedded and running along the wall.  "De-energize ship's

    The ship's gravity was the result of gravitons pouring down
over it, generated by special cells located here and there all
over the maneuvering sails.  Energized by an electric field with
just the right alternating phase caused them to divert a small
fraction of the surrounding gravitonic current down over the
ship, providing it with artificial gravity.  Normally, the
computer automatically adjusted the controlling electric field to
maintain a constant Earth-normal artificial gravity no matter how
the strength of the gravitonic current fluctuated.  The computer
now cut the controlling electric field.

    Jason felt himself suddenly go weightless, as if the ship
had been dropped down a hole.  WOW, WHERE DID UP AND DOWN JUST
GO?!  His feet drifted off the elevator.  He twisted his hand in
the opposite direction against the rung of the ladder he was
holding, and his feet drifted back to the elevator.  "Computer,
as soon as this hatch opens, re-energize gravity.  Now, open the

    The hatch snapped open, and Jason looked up to see the
bottoms of two bare feet just as the computer said, "Gravity re-

    With a cry the boy instantly fell down through the hole,
landed on Jason, the two of them falling to the floor of the
elevator in a tangled heap.  To prevent them from harming

themselves, the computer had slid the floor downward a ways as
they fell on it lessening the impulse of their impact.

    Jason disentangled himself, and stood quickly.  "Whew!  Kid,
you need a BATH!"

    "So do you!", the boy snapped back as he got up from the
floor, and sprang up the ladder toward the pilot room again.

    Jason snapped, "Close that damn hatch!  Lock it!"  The hatch
slid closed again.  The boy yelled for it to open, but this time,
he was not Jason, and the hatch stayed closed.  He looked back
down at Jason from where he stood perched at the top of the
ladder in the wall just below the hatch.

    Jason looked up at the boy.  "All right, kid.  Start
talking!  What's this all about?  Or, do I have to get rough with

    The boy snapped back, "Eat dirt, beak-face!", glaring
defiantly down at Jason.

    Jason fingered his nose absently, and looked up at the
skinny, mop-headed boy.  He reminded Jason of an angry little
elf.  This was an absurd situation.  Jason, in spite of himself,
suddenly burst out laughing.

    He then ordered, "Computer, lower the elevator back down,
and lock all central chamber doors."  When the floor reached the
bottom of the central chamber, he turned toward the living
quarter door.  "Open this one, and close and lock it after I walk
through."  He looked up at the boy.  "Good-night, kid.  See you
in the morning.  Hope you like sleeping on a cold, hard elevator
floor!"  He walked through the door into the living quarter, and
the door slid shut as he heard the boy begin to protest.

    Jason turned to face the door, waiting.  He heard the boy
scramble down the ladder, and then begin pounding on the door,
shouting, "Hey, I can explain everything!  Don't leave me locked
in here, mister!  I'm sorry!  Let me talk to you..."

    "Are you going to behave?"

    There was a pause.  And, in a very calm, but still boyishly
high voice he answered, "I will be completely cooperative, and
happily submit to whatever decisions you make."

    Hmph.  That was better.  Jason opened the door.  The boy
stood looked up at Jason, smiled, and stuck out his hand. "Good
evening, sir!  My name is Dalton.  At your service!"

    Jason took his hand automatically, shaking it slowly.
Something told him he was about to be "conned."  Looking into the
impish adolescent face, with the big grin, and the dark but
twinkling eyes, Jason felt himself being charmed.  Yep, that was
his heart he felt warming up, all right.  And, that was bad!  But
there was something familiar about this kid...  He had the same
peculiar feeling as at the gold souq.  He just could not put his
finger on it.

    He turned around, and gestured over his shoulder, "Come on
in.  Tell me your story.  Computer, drop a couple of chairs."
Two shiny blue pneumatic chairs folded down from the ceiling with
a hiss, inflating fully before coming to rest on the floor.
Jason collapsed wearily into one, bounced up and down a few times

then came to rest.  Dalton lowered himself slowly, and sat
politely in the other, his hands folded in his lap.

    "Dalton, you say?  What are you doing in my ship???"

    Dalton spread his hands, shrugging and grinning in
embarrassment.  He shook his head, "Gosh, I don't know what to
say!"  He suddenly dropped his hands, and hung his head.  Then he
slowly lifted it revealing the most forlorn look Jason had ever
seen.  They looked quietly at each other.

    Jason rolled his eyes, and said calmly, "I won't hurt you...
But, why'd you sneak into MY ship, kid?"

    He earnestly piped in his high voice, "I don't know, sir.  I
knew which ship was yours because I watched you land a few weeks
ago.  I was helping out with the loading of another sailship, the
one next to yours, when you came walking over."

    Jason, upon landing, had seen a familiar ship nearby, and
knowing the captain personally, had walked over anxious to see a
familiar face after having just spent many months alone in space.
Well, this explained how he had found his ship so fast.

    "So you had seen me before.    But, why did you stow away?
And," he frowned in puzzlement.  "How did you get into my ship?
How in the world did you get the computer to think you were me?!"

    Dalton brightened, and excitedly explained, "That was easy!
I'm always talking with these dumb sailship computers.  They're
so cooperative, it's easy to fool them.  When I first entered the
ship, after using the key I got from your car, your computer told
me 'Stop, intruder!' or something like that.  I knew your name,
because I asked around after I first saw you...  You made me
think of...  You seemed like...  Anyway, I told your computer
that I was you, and to reset its identity pattern."

    "It didn't ask for the master password?"

    "No!  I asked about that.  It said that you programmed it to
assume that anyone using the key was automatically Jason Jason."

    That was right!  He had done just that.  But, only so that
in case of emergency he could get the ship activated as quickly
as possible.  Also, he hated going through the identity check
every time he entered his ship, especially during all the
frequent entries he made while refurbishing his supplies.
Basically, it was his fault -- he'd made it easy for the kid to
break in.

    "Yeah, that makes sense...  But why, uh, Dalton?  You've
stowed away on a SAILSHIP!  Do you know how much trouble you're
in?  And me, too!  Your parents will be very worried by the time
we tack back up this current, and get back to Infinity City.
They may think that I kidnapped you!"  But now, the boy was
hanging his head again.  Jason frowned with concern, and asked,
"What's the matter?"

    Dalton looked sadly back up at Jason, his dark eyes welling
up with tears.  "I have no parents, sir.  I don't have ANY family

    No family?!, Jason thought in amazement and pity.  Infinity
City was extremely family oriented.  It always had been.  Family
rights were even specifically supported by the Constitution.
Especially, the rights of children.  Families were the basis for

the political system.  Everyone had a family!  Someone winding up
alone would get themselves adopted into a family, no matter how
old they were.  Humans simply could not live in a black hole
without the security, stability, and comfort of families running
everything.  No family?

    "You have no family?  Not even an adopted one?"

    "No, Jason.  Can I call you Jason, sir?"

    "Yeah... sure, kid."

    Dalton explained, "I can't get adopted.  Nobody wants me.
My parents weren't from Infinity City.  They weren't with me when
I landed here, I mean, back there."

    "You aren't from Infinity City?"

    "No, Jason..."  And Dalton proceeded to tell him the strange
tale of his life, and how he had come to Infinity City.

    Dalton said he had only come to Infinity City five years
before.  He had arrived with an Adventurer who had just dumped
him off at the space port, abandoning him.  Rejected, and deeply
hurt, Dalton had wandered away to live out on the streets of
Infinity City with the other misfit kids.

    Every space port town around the Galaxy had its share of
misfit space kids.  Some were callously abandoned orphans.  Some
were runaways from abusive situations.  Some were runaways from
slavers!  The SOCIETY FOR ABANDONED CHILDREN, an intergalactic
organization of mercy, tried to find homes for these children.
But many, addicted to life on the streets, avoided all offers to
rejoin society.  On Infinity City, the street kids secretly moved
about like ghosts.  Most citizens weren't even aware they

    No one would help Dalton, thinking from his accent, that he
was just some off-world brat of some crewmember of one of the
many ships temporarily at port.  But Dalton HAD very definitely
belonged to the sailship for a long time.

    He had grown up on-board the sailship of a dashing
Adventurer from Infinity City.  Dalton, and his father worked
aboard the ship as it traded around the Galaxy, stopping at many
worlds, but mysteriously never on Infinity City.  The Adventurer
would not even talk about Infinity City.  Trouble with some girl,
Dalton's father had told him.

    Dalton's own father had had trouble with a girl.  Dalton's
mother, who Dalton had never even known.  His father had told him
that he had signed on with the Adventurer, on some obscure planet
when Dalton was only a baby.  But, his mother had chosen to stay
behind!  Whenever Dalton had asked his father about his mother,
the man would either grow angry or depressed, but would never
talk about her except to say that she had not wanted to go with
them, and could not look after the infant Dalton for some reason.
Dalton and his father left with the Adventurer, who saw nothing
wrong with a man dragging a baby on-board.  Due to the
perpetually nomadic lifestyle of spacemen and spacewomen, they
were all used to children underfoot.

    The story got stranger.  Dalton saw many different worlds
around the Galaxy.  He loved life aboard the Adventurer's ship.
But, as he grew older, he began to notice a certain strain
between the Adventurer and his father.  Especially, when he,

Dalton, was around.  The Adventurer used to look at him in a
funny way, and then sometimes grow angry with his father.  It got
worse and worse.  Finally, it came to a terrible end.

    Just up from a successful trading stop at an agricultural
planet, the Adventurer and Dalton's father were sampling a huge
supply of liquor they had purchased to trade elsewhere.  Dalton's
father was now something of a partner with the Infinity City
Adventurer, due to his bargaining skills, and cleverness when
dealing with port authorities.  At first, they had been quite
happy over such a successful venture on the planet.  Dalton heard
them laughing through an open hatchway at the end of the corridor
leading to the cargo hold.  Dalton had snuck to the hatchway to
see what was causing such unusual glee.  Dalton, only nine years
old, did not understand drunkenness, and watched with fascination
as they swayed back and forth, slapped each other on the back,
and said unusually nice things about each other.

    But, then they began talking about some girl.  And, then
they fought!  And, to Dalton's horror, the Adventurer smashed a
bottle against his father's head.  His father fell over, and hit
his poor head again against a sharp metal storage container.
Dalton would never forget seeing so much of his father's blood,
so bright red!...

    The Adventurer was the legal sovereign of the ship.  He told
the crew that only in self-defense had he hit Dalton's father,
who tragically had fallen against the container.  Dalton did not
know if this was true.  Certain members of the crew, upon
learning that young Dalton had witnessed the fight, had asked him
secretly about it.  But, all Dalton, still in shock, could
remember back then was his beloved father lying on the deck of
the cargo hold with his blood pouring out.

    The Adventurer held a burial-in-space ceremony.  He was very
sincere, and even shed tears.  Everyone missed Dalton's father.
They jettisoned his body away.  Up to this time, Dalton had been
in a daze.  But, upon seeing his father's body in a clear plastic
box ejected out into space, Dalton finally broke down sobbing and

    Seeing this greatly affected the Adventurer.  After that, he
began treating Dalton in a completely different way.  He gave him
much attention.  Was kind and gentle and generous.  He even
taught him all about the ship.

    But, without his father, Dalton was heartbroken.  He grew
quieter and quieter, and got so thin he saw his bones sticking
out.  This made the Adventurer very distraught.  He acted more
and more as if he felt responsible for Dalton and his

    Finally, the Adventurer asked Dalton if it would make him
happy if they found his mother.  Dalton looked at him, amazed at
such a concept.  He said he would like to meet his mother, but
did not know where she lived.  But, the Adventurer said she was
in a ship, and he knew its course!

    This was amazing!  Dalton brightened up.  The Adventurer
changed their course, and they sailed for many months.  The crew
did not like this change in plan because it meant a suspension in
trading, and also a suspension in their percentage of the profit.
Unlike the ageless Infinity City Adventurer who had a large
supply of the PILL OF LIFE, most of the crew were aging, and in a
hurry to make their fortunes.  But the Adventurer ruled the ship
alone.  Unfortunately, catastrophe struck again.

    They had been following the course that would lead to
Dalton's mother for a very long time.  Day after day went by.
The crew were tense and bored, growing restless.  Someone
carelessly fell asleep at the helm one day, and the sailship got
sucked into a gravitonic whirlpool!

    They were extremely lucky that the sails had not blown up in
an atomic explosion.  The moment the ship came under the
influence of the whirlpool, the Adventurer had noticed something
peculiar about the ship's artificial gravity.  Arriving in the
pilot room, he found the duty officer fast asleep, with the
computer hopelessly engrossed in a game of chess with itself.
The Adventurer terminated the game, and the computer immediately
signaled imminent catastrophic danger.  They were being sucked
into a gravitonic whirlpool, where the graviton density was great
enough to cause gravitonic sails to implode so rapidly that they
broke down in an atomic explosion destructive enough to vaporize
their sailship.

    Instead of trying to maneuver out of the whirlpool, he
immediately reeled the sails in.

    It was a rough ride!  There was much damage as the tidal
forces of the whirlpool tried to squash and stretch the ship.
But, finally the ship was slung out of the whirlpool.
Unfortunately, though, the ship had instantly gained an enormous
amount of kinetic energy.  Now it went flying through the Galaxy
so close to the speed of light that Galactic time was now going
faster than time in the ship.  They discovered this when the crew
checked the stars to see where the ship was.  They found the
landmark stars moving dozens of times faster than normal, some so
Doppler-shifted that many were either deeply blue or red!

    The ship had serious damage.  Some of the gravitonic sail
systems were beyond repair.  The Adventurer ordered a course set
for Infinity City, the only place where he could put in for
refitting gravitonic systems.  It took them a year of ship time
to "limp" back to Infinity City with the gravitonic sails in the
shape that they were in.

    The capricious Adventurer's attitude changed once again.  He
blamed Dalton for the accident, and the forced trip back to
Infinity City.  It had happened because they had been looking for
his, Dalton's, mother.  The Adventurer became very icy toward
Dalton and the crew.  It was clear that he did want to go to
Infinity City.  He told no one what it would be like entering the
black hole.  That had been another rough ride.

    And, once landed at the space port, the Adventurer had
dumped Dalton, now 10, out of the sailship, ordering the computer
not to let him back in.  Dalton was immediately taken in by other
homeless boys who all worked odd jobs around the busy space port.
And, that is where he had been for the last five years.  Working
the space port, and recently, picking pockets at the souqs.  It
had been a rough, bitter, and very lonely time.  Dalton's voice
took on an eerie edge for one so young as he talked about it.

    When he was done with the story, he just sat looking at the
floor.  Jason was struck numb by such a sad tale.  He looked at
the boy, dark tousled hair, head bowed, with his arms wrapped
around his skinny knees.  Jason felt a sudden strong tenderness.
It was something he had never felt before.  Was this what a
father felt for a son?

    Jason thought to himself about Dalton's miserable situation:
The poor little guy has no one back on Infinity City.  Maybe, it

WOULD be fun to have a bright kid along.  And, there's just
something about him that gets to me.  Maybe I'm getting old...
Nope!  I took the PILL just the other day...

    Jason said softly, "Hey, kid."  Dalton looked up
questioningly.  Jason paused, and regarded his face closely.
There was something about Dalton's looks.  Something familiar?
Dalton's triangular shaped face had delicate features that gave
him a sensitive, thoughtful look.  His skin was clear, and
without a blemish.  Jason had a flash of insight and imagined
Dalton growing up to be tall and lean; and good-looking just like
himself!  But something still seemed familiar about him.  Maybe
he had seen him around Infinity City before.  Oh, well.  Jason
decided he liked the boy very much.

    Jason reached forward, took hold of the boys shoulders, and
said, "Dalton, my young friend, how would YOU like to learn to
fix space ships?  I could use a good partner!"

    Dalton looked up at Jason with a look of disbelief that
turned into innocent wonder.  Then, he jumped to his feet,
grabbed Jason's hand, and began shaking it up and down, grinning
from ear to ear.  Jason looked up and saw tears of joy in
Dalton's eyes.


    The two hit it off like no two PARTNERS ever had before.
The potential between them was limitless.  Jason, for all his
wildness, was extremely intelligent, and endlessly knowledgeable.
Dalton was filled with boundless energy, and his mind was an
ever-thirsty sponge for learning.  Dalton, forever thankful at
being rescued from his miserable life on the streets, was now the
eager protege.  Jason, delighted to have such an amusing little
companion on the long voyage who was so eager to learn about the
ship, the universe, and life, and who practically worshipped the
ground he walked on, fell into the role of mentor and teacher.

    Jason was appalled at Dalton's lack of basic education.  He
sat him down in the pilot chair, and had the computer run
tutorial after tutorial covering self-psychology, physics;
electronic, computronic, & mechanical engineering, and of course,
software.  Then there was the history of Infinity City, the
worlds of the Galaxy, the politics of Mankind, and more.  Dalton
was fascinated by all of this.  And he felt so strongly motivated
to please Jason.  Jason had allowed him to stay, rescuing him
from his despairing life at the bottom of Infinity City.  Jason
was the first person, since his father, to take any special
interest in him.  Dalton felt like life was beginning all over
for him.

    And then, when Dalton thought nothing in the world could
beat his new life, Jason made it still better.  He began teaching
Dalton the workings and operation of the sailship!  The
gravitonic systems, the pilot room controls, the amazing
automated tools in the workshops!  Dalton was in love with the
sailship.  Its systems became second nature to him.  He amazed
Jason one day when he showed him a clever yet simple plan for
diverting energy from the powerful gravitonic sail generator to
the atomic particle-beam defensive weapon system which had a much
smaller generator that took an excessive amount of time to charge
up between firings.  Jason, impressed after his review of the

plan, concluded Dalton had definitely earned his position as
junior partner.

    Using the materials and tools of the workshops, they built a
secondary pilot chair for Dalton that they attached to the top of
the ladder entering the pilot room through the floor.  From
there, Dalton watched in rapture as Jason would periodically
pilot the ship out of one gravitonic current, and into another on
a more direct course toward the area of the whirlpool.
Sometimes, sophisticated tacking maneuvers were carried out when
the sailship was forced to beat its way through opposing
gravitonic eddy currents the size of entire solar systems.  Jason
even let Dalton sit in the main pilot seat, and take over manual
control of the ship for basic lessons in gravitonic sailing.

    Dalton was an excellent pilot.  He never grew tense or
careless.  His exuberant joy at piloting reflected reminded Jason
of his early days in Militia Guard patrol duty.

    Jason would sit in the secondary pilot seat watching Dalton
smoothly maneuvering the ship through training exercises, rapidly
chattering orders to the computer, his high voice breathless with
excitement.  And Jason would feel his heart warm with nurturing
pride.  THIS must BE WHAT IT'S LIKE TO HAVE A SON, he thought to

    Months went by.  Jason noticed that the usual loneliness and
anxiety of a solo trip were gone.  It was so much fun showing
this kid the ropes.  How strangely rewarding it was observing
that hungry little mind growing and growing, asking question
after question without tire.  Jason looked forward to each day.
Dalton had boundless energy, and was perpetually good-natured.
And yet he always maintained the strangest amount of self-
control, and dignity for someone so young.  When Jason had been
Dalton's age, about 15, he was always in constant trouble, with
girls, with school, and with his parents.  Jason would sigh when
he would think back to those times, and then remind himself as he
always did on long rescue missions that though he was alone, he
was now completely FREE.  But now, he was NOT alone anymore at
all!  From now on, he would always have a junior partner.

    For recreation there were endless computer games.  Jason
tried to show Dalton some woodcraft techniques using the
equipment in one of the workshops.  But, Dalton preferred playing
around with the computer.  He could safely do all the programming
he wanted by using an exclusive area of the computer's atomic
memory reserved just for him, without affecting any other part of
the important computer, critical to their safety.

    For physical activity Jason would string a net across the
cargo hold, which had plenty of room.  The net, about as wide as
an arm-length, was positioned midway up the wall.  They would don
knee, elbow, and wrist padding.  Then, they would tug on spongy-
soled polymer boots and half-gloves, kill the ship's artificial
gravity, and play 'free-ball', bouncing and ricocheting all
around the cargo hold while throwing the heavy freeball back and
forth past the net.  Though Dalton's height and size of foot were
small, Jason had several pairs of polymer boots, and half-gloves
that fit him.  Jason liked to keep the ship fully equipped for
entertaining female guests, especially those that were excited by
the energetic activity of a satisfying free-ball session.

    Dalton was wild about free-ball, and trounced Jason
repeatedly.  He was just too fast!  Jason almost always came away
with a new bruise or two, but it was so much fun.  He felt like a
kid himself!

    The object of freeball was to score the most points in a
given amount of time.  Players jumped back and forth between
floor and ceiling throwing the ball past the net, and then
catching it after it bounced off the far wall, and came back past
the net again.  Play went in turns with one player serving and
the other player receiving.  (In the Militia Guard version of the
game, they were referred to as "attacker" and "defender.")  If
the ball touched the net or anything but the walls or players, it
was out of play, and service would go to the other player.  If
the non-serving player intercepted the ball, before it passed the
net and returned to the serving player, the intercepting player
would get to serve.  If he intercepted the ball BEFORE it bounced
off the back wall, he earned a DEFENSIVE POINT.  If the ball made
it safely back to the hands of the server, that was an OFFENSIVE

    The appealing challenge of the game was all the moving about
in zero-gravity.  Players wildly flew back and forth between
floor or ceiling or the back wall, landing and then immediately
springing away toward the most predictable route of the ball.
The heavy ball itself immediately altered a drifting player's
course the moment it was caught or thrown.  It was a thrilling
game with many addicted followers.

    Whenever Dalton picked up something new, in his rapid
education, that was particularly impressive, Jason would reward
him with an extra-vehicular excursion.  Dalton would turn red and
almost burst with excitement each time Jason casually mentioned
that it was time for another "walk in space."

    Jason maintained three spacesuits fitted for himself, but
these were too big for Dalton.  However, Jason just happened to
also maintain a few suits sized for women, which he had used in
the past for entertainment purposes involving certain
acquaintances he had made with personnel aboard disabled space
vessels.  One fitted Dalton well enough.

    They would put the suits on, and activate them in the cargo
hold.  The ship's computer would monitor the sensors all over the
suits, checking for any problems.  If and only if the suits were
functioning perfectly, the inner hatch of the air lock would
open.  In they would go.  The inner hatch would then slide
closed, and the air would be pumped out.  Proper operation of the
suits would again be closely monitored.

    A large compartment, at once side of the air lock, could be
pulled open to reveal the means of locomotion in space.
Spacebikes!  A space rider would straddle the 'bike, then clamp
the circular restraining bar around the waist.  Jets folded out
on all sides.  Using blasts of steam, they were capable of
translational movement in any direction, and had gyroscopes for
control of angular attitude.  The controls were located on the
restraining bar.  The extremely high power jets required little
water.  The controls were not mechanical.  They were just simple
inputs to the spacebikes' sophisticated on-board computer, which
had many functions for making space movement easy, such as
angular and linear momentum control.  Also, the spacebike
computer's were slaves to the master ship's computer.  This way,
any command given by the wearer would be ignored if the ship's

computer predicted that the command would cause trouble, such as
a command to crash into the ship, or a command to hit the
gravitonic sails, or a command to crash into another spacebike.

    Dalton and Jason had thrilling times chasing each other
around the ship.  The freezing jet steam sprayed out veils of
tiny ice crystals that sparkled in the ship's outer spotlights.
Sometimes, Jason would release one of the repair robots, equipped
with propulsion jets.  He and Dalton would play "follow the
leader" with the little repair robot programmed to execute wildly
random maneuvers that Dalton and Jason would try to follow.

    Their time in space was endlessly rewarding to both of them.
Their was so much to do between Dalton, and his own studies, that
Jason never found the time to listen to the tape from his
parents, and eventually forgot all about it.

    After almost a year they had covered most of the distance to
the whirlpool.  They both were growing anxious to find the
missing colony ship.  Jason's desire to save the poor colonists,
if they were still alive, had infected Dalton with equal
intensity.  Jason regarded this rescuing of space vessels in
trouble as his life's work, and felt very proud at actually now
having a protege to share his skills with.  Dalton regarded Jason
as the most amazing man he had ever heard of, his hero!

    In the evenings, after a long day of activity, they would
enjoy a meal of space-rations prepared by one of the little
robots.  Neither Jason nor Dalton cared much for cooking, Jason
finding that the chemicals exuded by cooking in space required
too much of the robotic cleaning system's time and resources,
anyway.  They would lounge around the living room waiting.
Suddenly, one the ship's little robots, canister shaped, usually
the green one, would come blasting out of the cooking cabinet,
roll up to either Jason or Dalton, then open up its small storage
slot.  From inside, they would pull out trays of food, and drink
packets.  When finished, they would stuff the empty trays and
packets back into the slots, and the robot would roll over into
the cleaning cabinet, pluck out and throw away the refuse, and
then clean its slot and manipulators with sterilizing ultrasonic
vibrations and ultraviolet radiation.  The rest of the evening
was spent enjoying various pastimes.

    Jason dabbled with his acoustic musical instruments: guitar,
saxophone, a terribly tortured clarinet, and a flute.  Music to
Jason was a magical way of charming a ladies heart.  Dalton had
not developed the patience or any desire to work at an instrument
day after day.  He preferred, in the evenings, the excitement of
donning a virtual-reality helmet, and doing battle with aliens,
and space pirates.

    Virtual-reality was produced by a special helmet covering
the eyes and ears, and interfaced to a computer.  The computer
generated four-dimensional visual images and stereo sound to
synthesize any kind of reality.  Entertainment VR pitted the
wearer of the helmet against all sorts of famous foes.  Knowledge
VR synthesized the images and sounds of other worlds.  Many
computers permitted the wearer of a VR helmet to travel within
the computer's own memory to make software programming easier by
taking advantage of the human brain's ultra-sophisticated visual
processing ability.

    Jason could not stand virtual-reality.  It gave him severe
feelings of anxiety, and made him feel like his mind was trapped.
He much preferred physical reality.

    Sometimes Jason would sip rich coffee from around the
Galaxy, and grow talkative.  Dalton enjoyed listening to Jason's
exciting tales of past rescues.  After he had heard all the
stories, he began asking technical questions regarding other
space ships and their missions, endlessly interrogating Jason for
detail after detail.

    And then Dalton began to change, and so too did the topics
of their evening conversations.  Jason first noticed the change
by observing Dalton periodically looking off into nowhere, with a
strange, dreamy expression.  Then, his voice began to sometimes
crack and break, as it grew lower in pitch.  And then, worst of
all, he began asking Jason embarrassing questions about GIRLS.

    Normally, Jason loved ribald discussions regarding the
opposite sex, but this was different.  Dalton's innocent
questioning made Jason uncomfortable and he responded with only
obscure 'technical' explanations, not really satisfying Dalton's
curiosity at all.  Sometimes Jason would grow exasperated and
cry, "Go ask the computer!"  But, other times Dalton would
finally cajole Jason into talking about one of the finer ladies
in his life, and he would jabber away happily with his own
distant, dreamy expression.


    They were now in a dangerous part of the Galaxy.  They
passed by the black hole of one of Infinity City's NEIGHBORS --
another world inside a black hole, but run by bloodthirsty
tyrants bent on learning the secret of the PILL OF LIFE from
Infinity City.  Countless Infinity City merchant and Adventurer
sailships had been attacked and boarded, the occupants tortured
for the secret of the pill that gave immortality.  But, to the
grievous misfortune of the victims, the secret of the PILL was a
vastly complex medical science that no single person could

    The pre-programmed aging process controlled by human DNA was
a long and balanced program sculpted by primordial evolution to
adapt life to the ever-changing environment of Earth.  The
counter-program to counteract all this without adverse side-
effects required a complex protein synthesis of mind-boggling
complexity.  The PILL OF LIFE, too complex for reliable self-
replication (and, unfortunately, long-term storage), had to be
ingested monthly.  The technology for producing the PILL required
the cooperation of three different Families, involving hundreds
of personnel.  The NEIGHBORS knew nothing of this.  They only
knew that the people of Infinity City lived forever, and held the
secret of the PILL.

    Jason had the computer begin scanning on all sides, round
the clock, for undesirable sailships.  It was not many days
before the clanging encounter alert bell was suddenly heard
throughout the ship...

    It was morning.  Jason and Dalton were wolfing down large
quantities of breakfast -- Jason, amazed as ever at Dalton's
ever-growing appetite, wondered where the slim boy put it all.

When the bell went off Jason knew what it probably meant.  There
was no regular shipping in this area due to the dangerous
proximity of the Neighbors.

    Jason looked up suddenly at Dalton, wagged his eyebrows up
and down, and hissed "Could be a Militia Guard scout or ... MAYBE
PIRATES!" with a cunning grin.  He then launched out of the
living quarter for the pilot room.  Dalton, excited and scared
all at the same time, followed on his heels.

    Jason saw the flashing message "APPROACHING SPACECRAFT!" on
the main viewscreen and strapped himself into the pilot chair and
ordered Dalton to do the same at his chair;  it could be a bumpy
ride if it turned into a chase;  the local gravitonic currents --
perhaps due to the whirlpool somewhere in the region -- had grown
short and winding.  Jason checked the gravitonic radar display
and focused in on the reading.

    "Jason!", Dalton cried excitedly.  "Let's do it all in
virtual-reality!  It'll be easier!"

    Jason could just picture himself inside miserable V-R
getting nauseous from all the rapid, swirling colorful action.
His brain just would never stand it.  "I don't trust it, kid.
I'm sticking to the old-fashioned way.  Jump into V-R if you want
but keep a comm channel open so you can hear me if I need you."

    "Aye, Captain!", cried Dalton with growing excitement.  He
pulled his V-R helmet over his head.  Jason looked around at
Dalton and noticed with amusement that Dalton had painted silver
lightning bolts all over it.

    "Dalton, can you hear me?", Jason asked quietly.  He saw the
helmet nod quickly.

    Inside his virtual-reality, Dalton had first called up a
vast, multi-colored display of the internal workings of the
sailship -- which he had fallen completely in love with.  He
quickly reviewed all systems for proper operation -- he would
monitor the sailship and support his Captain no matter what!
Dalton then ordered the computer to display a small three
dimensional representation of surrounding space so he could watch
their own sailship and the approaching one -- he 'hung' the
little sphere-shaped display at eye-level and to the side, but
close enough so he could reach out with his virtual-hand and turn
it to see what was going on at any angle.

    Jason turned back to the command console spread before him
and rubbed his hands excitedly -- action!  He reviewed the
information regarding the approaching ship now displaying across
his main situation viewscreen.  There was no point in contacting
the other ship by gravitonic radio.  What turbulence the
graviton-belching ship was leaving behind!  Definitely a non-
Infinity City clone and almost certainly a pirate sailship from
the neighboring black hole known as The Gouge.

    Unlike the advanced world of Infinity City, floating on an
enormous man-made disk-planetoid within its black hole, inside
The Gouge was a huge collection of thousands of old sailships and
space stations girdered and guy-wired together with great
collections of gravitonic sails billowing out all around
precariously holding the entire mass roughly in the middle of the
black hole.  It was a Galactic pirates' cove, a haven for the
Galaxy's outlaw privateers where they came to buy and sell -- or
retire, permanently attaching their old unspaceworthy sailships

to the great floating mass of other ships, many of these
converted to stores, shops, inns, and taverns where the
successfully retired space buccaneers and their descendants lived
and worked, some descendants never having left the black hole.

    The Gouge, home to any privateer ruthless enough to have
somehow commandeered a sailship from elsewhere in the Galaxy.
Usually, these craft were from Infinity City -- several worlds
had learned to copy the design of the Infinity City sailship,
though Infinity City continued to design and build the best.
Infinity City Adventurers often lost their marvelous sailships
through debt, theft, or attack.  Astronomically valuable for
their faster-than-light speed, most lost sailships wound up in
the hands of privateers who -- becoming outlaws -- usually sought
refuge within inhabited black holes.  Within The Gouge there was
more than refuge.  Here, the privateer could deal in any stolen
or illicit merchandise imaginable.  Here was where they brought
and traded their booty from thieving raids.  Here were the only
repair facilities for a privateer living completely outside
Galactic law.  And, here was one of the largest centers for the
human slave trade in the Galaxy.

    But the most valuable commodity traded within The Gouge was
not stolen precious commodities, or the almost universally banned
experimental DNA alteration drugs, or even the vast collections
of well-trained sex slaves.  The most valuable commodity was
information on the Pill of Life from Infinity City.  For though a
privateer could quickly amass vast fortunes raiding around the
Galaxy in faster-than-light sailships, they had no cure for aging
because Infinity City did not sell to criminals.  And the Pill
was not available on the black market because each individual
required a unique prescription exclusively produced on Infinity
City.  And the Family that distributed the Pill from Infinity
City was bent on monitoring the activities of every single
subscriber throughout the Galaxy to prevent the immortality of
tyrants.  Unfortunately, the controlling Family could never
control the Galactic-wide rumor that there existed a secret
generic Pill that anyone could use, an irresistible untruth
believed by all aging pirates.

    Jason's craft had been sighted by a fat privateer loaded
with cargo from a raid on a frontier world where they had left
all of the colonists dead.  The privateer could easily tell by
Jason's smooth, ripple-free progress through the gravitonic
current that Jason was sailing a fine ship from Infinity City.
The privateer's old craft was a clone of a clone of a genuine
Infinity City sailship and no match in speed for the real article
so attack was not practical.  Prudently, lest Jason's craft turn
out to be a scoutcraft of the Infinity City Militia Guard, the
privateer had taken a handy off-shoot branch from the current he
was on and had headed away from Jason's sailship, taking a longer
way around to The Gouge.

    The privateer had been close to The Gouge anyway and arrived
soon with the exciting news of a sailship fresh from Infinity
City in the vicinity.  A gang of old idle pirates formed a quick
alliance around their favorite table in a tavern aboard an old
ship that had not left The Gouge black hole for over 100 years --
so rickety was it that all patrons wore spacesuits with helmets
dangling down their backs in case the old craft, surrounded by
the vacuum of space, busted out an air seem.  They quickly
mounted spacebikes or similar vehicles, rocketed back to their
own craft, then sailed out of The Gouge in search of this
valuable craft from Infinity City which might just contain a huge
supply of the fabled generic Pill of Life to counteract their

    Jason increased power to the gravitonic generator to full to
allow rapid maneuvering, though he continued sailing onward at
the present cruising speed, the generator filling the pilot room
with its low throbbing hum.  He then quickly readied the
sailship's weapon systems:  the potent atomic particle-beam
antimissile system and electromagnetic deflector fields for
defense, and a trusty high-power gravitonic cannon for offense.
As usual, the antimissile system took a long time to charge its
high-energy particle capacitor.  Power for the cannon was always
available from the ship's gravitonic sail system, though the ship
would temporarily slow whenever power was transferred.

    Jason ordered the computer to display in three dimensions
the structure of the local gravitonic current containing himself
and the approaching unidentified craft, still at a great distance
though much less than a light-year.  ( An average Infinity City
private or merchant craft took about a day to sail one light-
year.  The fastest scoutcraft of the Militia Guard was about
three times faster.  The largest sailships, the Guard's
Destroyers and Ships-of-the-Line, took about two days to traverse
a light-year.  Gravitonic bolts fired by cannon were actually
waves that traveled from 10 to 100 times faster than an average
sailship depending on the characteristics of the gravitonic
medium. )

    The computer quickly displayed the branching structures of
all known local currents in thin, translucent white over a light
blue background.  Jason saw his ship, a tiny dot in the middle of
the display, and the pirate approaching from behind down the same
current.  Farther behind and off to the side at a distance of
just over one light-year was The Gouge black hole and its little
yellow companion star.  There were no other stellar objects
though Jason reckoned the great whirlpool must be within just a
few light-years.

    His computer had drawn the 3-D map from information
downloaded back on Infinity City from the latest Militia Guard
scouting missions.  These maps would be handy, even life-saving
if Jason would have to flee.  But Jason did not want to flee!
Part of him wanted to turn and fight.  One less pirate would do
the Galaxy good.  Jason had had several such encounters during
his active duty with the Militia Guard.  But the stronger side of
him desired to continue with the mission to rescue the colony
ship.  So he chose to continue forward and leave the slower ship
behind.  However, he allowed himself to be...  cautious.

    The pirate was behind -- perfect!  Jason lowered the
powerful gravitonic cannon beneath his sailship and set the
automatic targeting control for the approaching craft -- in his
mind he pictured the snub barrel of the mighty cannon swinging
around to aim at the mysterious ship.  Jason ground his teeth
wolfishly.  At the first hostile action from the pirate, Jason
would blast the pirate's gravitonic sails with a thin, extremely
powerful beam of unstable gravitons -- shredding the fragile
sails and hopefully shorting out the pirate's gravitonic
generation system, knocking the pirate below the speed of light
and stranding him.  If Jason found himself in a particularly
hostile mood he might turn back, draw within range, then destroy
the pirate with a few shots from the particle-beam weapon,
perfectly effective against a sitting duck like a disabled
sailship.  But would that be a proper example to set for his
protege now viewing the precedings within his V-R helmet?

    But then coming up behind the pirate another sailship
appeared.  It was moving fast!  Surprised and puzzled Jason
watched his situation screen as the faster sailship approached

the first.  An Infinity City scout craft or destroyer?  He
checked the radar information coming back.  Definitely an
Infinity City ship!  That's why it was so fast.  But its
gravitonic radar signature was too small for one of the great
Militia Guard destroyers, and too big for the tiny, rapid
scoutcraft.  Jason scratched his jaw in puzzlement.  Was the
faster ship attacking the smaller ship?  As Jason watched he
coolly loaded the coordinates of the faster ship as a secondary
target for the gravitonic cannon.

    On the situation screen, Jason watched the faster sailship
quickly approach and then pass by the other.  It was approaching
up the current rapidly toward Jason, less than an hour away.  He
did not like the looks of it.  Jason typed commands at the
communication console and beamed a coded recognition signal back
down the current toward the approaching ship.  It cut so smoothly
through the gravitonic current that it HAD to be a ship built on
Infinity City.  But there was no response -- definitely not run
by anyone from Infinity City.  That left the identity clear:

    Jason now had three options:  Continue as before, turn and
attack, or speed up to maximum and flee.  Unfortunately, Jason
did not know if the approaching ship was attacking.  Conceivably,
it COULD be an Infinity City craft with communication trouble.

    With a growl of frustration Jason ordered the computer to
make all sail and accelerate forward at full speed.  The sailship
began to rock back and forth and sometimes vibrate due to the
gravitonic resonance reflections between the ship's gravitonic
system and the twisty-turny current.  Dalton's voice issued from
the pilot room's amplification system.  He was complaining
shrilly why they were running instead of blasting the approaching
ship.  Jason ignored him and watched the image of the
unidentified ship closely.  It was fast, real fast!

    Suddenly, a small orange dot appeared on the display in
front of the strange ship and shot ahead of it heading toward
Jason's ship.  The computer used orange to represent any unknown
object with offensive characteristics.  That much faster-than-
light it could only be a highly destructive gravitonic plasma
bolt similar to what his own cannon could fire.  Jason quickly
fed the coordinates of the approaching bolt into the particle-
beam weapon and fired.  The display showed Jason's ship leave
behind a small green seemingly stationary streak.  Far from
stationary it was a particle emission travelling at near light
speed.  However, compared to the sailships super light speed, its
movement could barely be seen.  The approaching gravitonic plasma
bolt from the enemy, however, would hit the particle beam and
explode into a messy cloud of unstable gravitons -- plasma bolts
were 'dumb' weapons, just energy bolts that could not be steered
once launched.  There were many torpedo weapons available but few
equipped with gravitonic systems for faster-than-light speed.

    Jason coolly watched the situation screen.  Dalton, within
his virtual-reality, held his display sphere before him in his
virtual-hands, peering closely within at the simulation of what
was going on around him, as if he were actually holding in his
hands the reality of it all.

    Tensely, they watched the gravitonic bolt leaving the pirate
quickly behind, heading straight for their ship.  The particle
stream, left behind as their faster-than-light ship flew forward,
was in the direct path of the bolt.

    The gravitonic bolt quickly approached the waiting particle
stream, connected, then disappeared from the screen, to be
replaced by a slowly expanding black region.  Jason smiled.  Then
frowned.  His particle weapon was still not fully re-charged.
Damn thing was so slow -- effective, though.  He watched the
enemy sailship finally approach the little blackened region then
nimbly curve around it.

    Jason realized with a start that the enemy was slowly
gaining -- it was a faster sailship!  The original pirate
sailship, much slower, was falling way behind.  And then behind
it ANOTHER sailship appeared.  Jason ordered the computer to
color all clone ships brown and Infinity City built ships red.
The rapidly approaching ship turned red, the original ship turned
brown, there was a pause while the computer awaited data from the
radar system.  The newest ship turned red!  And yes, it was
shooting down the gravitonic current just as fast as the one
already approaching Jason -- No!  It was faster, and within
moments it passed the slower brown colored sailship.

    Jason's particle-beam system signaled full re-charge just
as the nearest of the two red approaching ships fired another
grav' bolt.  Again Jason fired back a particle-beam to intercept
the destructive bolt.  This appeared on the display as another
streak left behind his sailship.

    Not waiting for further developments, Jason now fired his
own gravitonic cannon, a powerful Benchley Mark-III with a 10-
inch coherizer.  It ship swayed slightly and momentarily slowed
as power diverted from the gravitonic sail system to the cannon.
The bolt tore backwards heading for the approaching ship -- it
would connect in seconds!  Jason held his breath in anticipation
watching the image representing his own bolt shoot backwards,
passing the stationary particle-beam streak he had previously
launched, and passing the approaching gravitonic bolt from the
enemy ship which, moments later, was destroyed by their particle-
beam streak.  He continued to watch his cannonfire hearing Dalton
cry:  "Come on!  Hit 'em!"

    But just as the bolt grew near, the enemy ship brought
itself hard over, out of the way, and was missed -- the bolt from
Jason's ship passed by and eventually shot out of a curve in the
gravitonic current quickly dissipating beyond in empty space.

    Jason swore under his breath while bringing the sailship
smoothly around a tight curve in the gravitonic current.  That
would buy them time for the atomic particle weapon to recharge.
He checked the map -- the first enemy would be around the bend in
only a minute or two!  Then Jason noticed that just up ahead
there was another gravitonic current branching off from the one
they were in.  He had a hunch he could duck into the branching
gravitonic current before the enemy rounded the bend behind --
the computer verified this as true.  There were more curves in
the current ahead.  Jason regretfully decided it would be best to
shake these pursuing pirates -- three was too many.  "Stand by
for a rough maneuver, Dalton!  We're sailing into that current
branching off just ahead!  We're going to lose 'em!"

    Dalton barely heard Jason.  He was too busy reviewing the
onboard weapon systems, straining his brain to come up with even
more improvements.  There must be some way...  There WAS some way
-- he KNEW it but the answer was just out of his conscious

    Just before the branch, Jason rapidly slowed the sailship,
the gravitonic generator screaming in response as all the energy

that was in the sails came funnelling back in to it.  Jason
brought the ship hard over into the new gravitonic current, gave
out one loud "HA!", then noticed the flashing alert message on
his situation viewscreen just as the computer announced:  "Two
approaching ships in this current."

    Jason could not believe his eyes.  About as far away as the
last two ships had been, now there were two more before him.
"All stop!", he ordered the computer.  "Give me their
configuration!", he demanded and saw to his frustration the data
displayed from the gravitonic radar analysis:  Two clones -- more
pirates!  And he could see the two ships speeding up.  Suddenly,
he saw on the situation screen each of the two new ships launch a
gravitonic bolt heading straight for him.  "Full gravitonic
power!", Jason shouted as he swung the sailship around in a tight
arc, the entire ship shuddering under the strain of the surging
gravitonic field pouring down from the sails.

    The two gravitonic bolts were coming down fast as Jason
sailed back at full speed for the original gravitonic current.
His particle defense weapon was fully charged again but he felt
sure he would make the other current before the approaching bolts
would hit.  However, they were coming on fast!  The situation
display showed them as blinking tiny yellow dots traveling down
the current far faster than Jason or the enemy ships.  He noticed
that the enemy ships, though clones of true Infinity City craft,
were moving much faster than the first pirate craft he had seen,
though they were not as fast as Jason's sailship at its current
top speed.

    Jason watched the display breathlessly as his ship quickly
approached the junction with the other current while the
approaching bolts rapidly grew closer and closer.  "Jason, are
they going to hit us??", he heard Dalton cry with surprise.

    "Hell, no!", Jason barked without taking his eyes off the

    In another few seconds they were at the junction.  Jason cut
grav power to one quarter and blasted into the other current
already bringing his ship about in a tight arc that made the ship
surge violently in several directions.  Jason glanced at the
situation display and at first could not make sense of what he
saw.  Then the computer announced, "Second ship proximity!
Danger!  Second ship maneuvering too chaotic for extrapolation --
cannot auto-maneuver.  Recommend immediate manual evasion.

    Jason roared, "Computer, zoom in on local situation!"  The
image on the screen expanded in a split second to show, still in
three dimensions, just what was going on:  Jason's sailship had
come flying out of the branching current back into the original
current right into the path of the other approaching pirate ships
-- the current was turbulent and narrow at this point, less than
one light-hour in diameter, not much maneuvering room for faster-
than-light craft.  As shown by the pirates erratic course, they
both had panicked, cut power, and were currently out of control,
jerking this was and that to avoid fouling their fragile sails
with each other and Jason.  Jason quickly sized up the situation,
let his intuition get a feel for it, then sharply swung his ship
out of the way in just the right direction to avoid the other
ships and the edge of the current -- all without requesting
astronavigation assistance from his computer.  Then at full power
he sent his sailship blasting up the current and rapidly away
from the branch.

    Quickly, Jason swung the pilot chair to the left over to the
gravitonic cannon console and tried to target the wildly
maneuvering pirate.  He could not!  It's movements were still out
of control.  Jason turned back to the situation display with his
left hand still at the cannon controls.  "Computer, display
cannon targeting cross hairs!  Zoom in on proximity sailcraft
50%...  25% more!"  He kept the cross hairs on the weirdly moving
ship.  What was the pirate doing?!  Then Jason felt the pattern
-- the pirate must have fouled his east and south sails with the
larger central one and was trying to jerk the ship over to free
them up.  Jason estimated the direction in which the pirate ship
would next surge...   aimed carefully... and FIRED!  He felt with
satisfaction the ship shudder as power was momentarily sucked
away from the gravitonic sail system and diverted to his powerful
gravitonic cannon.

    Jason watched his cannon bolt on the display quickly heading
toward the pirate.  Sure enough, the pirate surged over in the
predicted direction and was hit by the cannon bolt!

    Jason's eyes were wide as he stared at the display anxiously
waiting for any sign of destruction.  The little blinking yellow
bolt of his cannon shot had disappeared.  And now, the pirate
ship was stopped with no more movement -- Jason's gravitonic
cannon bolt had destroyed his gravitonic system!  "We got one,
Dalton!", Jason muttered.

    "Great shooting, partner!", he heard Dalton cry.

    Several things now occurred on the display screen.  The slow
pirate that had been dawdling up the current behind all the
action finally caught up and was almost at the branch.  The
remaining pirate ship near the branch regained control and swung
around after Jason.  The two pirate ships from the other current,
popped out and arced around toward Jason's ship.  Four pirate
craft were now in hot pursuit of Jason and Dalton, and not far

    Then, from the disabled fifth ship, a gravitonic bolt was
launched!  "He's STILL got power from his generator!", Jason
cried in surprise, while swinging over to the antimissile console
to target and launch a particle-beam at the rapidly approaching
gravitonic bolt.

    He launched the beam with a vicious growl then swung back to
the situation display where he noticed, with a shock, that the
other four pirate ships had opened fire launching more gravitonic
bolts.  Dismally he checked the particle-beam's charging time:
slow as ever.  There would not be enough time before they struck
-- he would have to try evasive maneuvering and hope for a
miracle.  The bolts were less a minute away...

    Then, Jason twisted around to face his junior partner
remembering that a miracle was indeed available.  At the same
time, Dalton lifted his V-R helmet from his head, his dark hair
tumbling out and around, his dark eyes were wide with concern.
He cried, "Jason, there's two gravitonic bolts heading toward

    Jason cut him off:  "Yeah, I know...  Dalton!", Jason hissed
leaning forward, staring in blue-eyed intensity, his face gaunt
with strain.  "Your plan to charge the particle-beam from the
main gravitonic cannon -- can you still do it?  Do you remember

    Dalton's face broke into a delighted grin.  "Yeah, of
course!  That's what I was about to ask permission to do!  Uh,
can I?"

    With exasperation Jason cried, "YES!", then reaching over
smacked the V-R helmet back down over Dalton's head.  He then
whirled around, grabbed the manual controls, and brought the
sailship hard over to try to avoid the oncoming gravitonic bolts
from the approaching pirates.

    The bolts had approached rapidly.  Fortunately, the pirates'
attack was uncoordinated and the three bolts had been simply
aimed at Jason's position instead of a more effective distributed
pattern.  Jason avoided them easily but paid a price:  Jerking
the sailship sideways across the gravitonic current cost him
forward movement -- the pirates he had rapidly pulled away from
were now closer.  After avoiding their cannonfire, Jason swung
his sailship around and sped off down the gravitonic current at
maximum power.  The distance between him and the pirates began to
increase again.

    The three pirate sailships out in the lead were not as fast
as Jason and he slowly pulled ahead.  He suddenly realized that
he had disabled the fastest of the pirates with his cannon back
at the branch -- what stroke of luck!

    Trailing behind the three was the pirate Jason had first
encountered -- much slower but still armed with a dangerous
gravitonic cannon.  Jason was thankful none of them seemed to
have multiple cannon.

    Jason watched the situation display closely -- the locations
of the pirates were quickly scanned by his gravitonic radar and
translated into images.  Then, the slowest pirate, now far behind
the advanced two, fired his gravitonic cannon again.  Then again
and again!  This huge amount of gravitonic power quickly slowed
the pirate's craft to a standstill.  Jason realized the clever
pirate had noted Jason's loss of progress avoiding the

    As the first gravitonic bolt quickly passed the three
advanced pirates, they too again opened fire, though only firing
a single bolt apiece.  Three gravitonic cannon shots were now
racing toward Jason's sailship with several more from the slower
ship flying up from behind.  In a few moments he would again have
to swing his sailship around killing his forward movement.

    "Dalton!", he growled while beginning the maneuver.  "How's
that modification coming? -- Dalton?  Dalton!!"  Jason craned his
neck around and saw Dalton's arms waving and jerking around
before him as if he was manipulating invisible objects.  "Dalton!
Can you hear me?!"

    Within his virtual-reality domain Dalton sat entranced with
the sailship's design details all floating around him in rich,
colored detail.  He mumbled, "I hear you...  I'm on it...  Soon
-- soon..."  Concentrating furiously, he was rapidly giving the
ship's computer instructions for his new modification, but was
prudently ordering the computer to model and test each step along
the way.  Dalton would be affecting too many of the ship's
critical systems without at least having the computer perform
validity tests.  With a burst of intuitive brilliance, Dalton had
realized he could do more than just redirect electrical power
from the gravitonic system to the particle-beam system -- he
could redirect GRAVITONIC power as well!

    While Dalton's arms frantically moved about manipulating the
symbols that interfaced to the ship's computer, Jason turned back
to his command console and swung the sailship back and forth
avoiding the oncoming gravitonic bolts.  This time, he noted with
a growl, they had not all aimed at his exact location but had
targeted randomly which made it more difficult to avoid their
fire -- when Jason finally turned the ship and again sailed away
at full power he found they had moved in far closer just a few
light-days behind -- they were only MINUTES away!

    Jason's sailship again began pulling away from the pirates.
Jason found himself sweating hard.  How soon would they fire
again??  All models of gravitonic cannon he'd ever heard of took
power from the mighty gravitonic sail system.  You could fire
often but it took power from your sails and slowed you down.  But
these pirates hardly slowed at all!  Jason dismally concluded
they must have installed greatly oversized gravitonic generation
systems to allow greater offensive capability.

    And then again they fired!  And while Jason brought the
sailship hard over again, the slower pirate ship now far behind
also fired.  The advancing pirate ships were getting so close
that Jason had only seconds to determine the trajectory of the
cannon bolts then jerk the sailship out of the way.  This time,
he avoided getting hit by only seconds.  He brought the ship
around, and again cranked the gravitonic generator to maximum
power and flew down the gravitonic current close enough to one
side to allow the cannon bolt from the slow pirate to harmlessly
streak by.

    "Dalton!  I need that fix!"

    "It's almost ready, chief!  It's got something extra!  I'm
just fine tuning the interface configurations now..."

    "'Something extra'?", Jason repeated.  What could that...
Then, displayed on his situation screen, he spied another
branching gravitonic current not too far ahead.  Its
characteristics indicated it was smaller than their present
current.  Usually, the smaller the gravitonic current, the more
branches led off -- like the structure of a plant's root system.
If he could duck down gravitonic currents with more and more
branches there was a good chance he could lose his deadly
pursuers!  Jason made ready to take the approaching branch.

    Then, to Jason's horror, the screen suddenly showed one,
two, three more ships appear out of the branching current just
ahead.  They paused for a moment, then turned and accelerated
quickly toward him!

    Jason knew what was coming.  He set his own gravitonic
cannon at 1/3 charge and fired three times at the three newly
ships before him.  The draw on his own gravitonic power slowed
his sailship down to a standstill.  It did not matter anymore --
he was surrounded with no place to go -- cornered.  However, when
cornered Jason turned into a dangerous animal...

    Jason growled over his shoulder, "Dalton!  I need that
particle-beam!", and pulled the gravitonic sails back to allow
only quick maneuvering.  He kept an eye on the three new ships
while swinging his own ship around to fire on the approaching
pirates behind.

    The newest ships scattered as soon as they detected Jason's
cannonfire, but not before firing their own gravitonic cannon.

    Jason's powerful gravitonic generator had charged enough to
allow him to send three bursts back at the pirates behind.  Then
he had to jerk the ship hard over to avoid the cannon bolts only
seconds away from the pirates in front;  luckily, like the first
pirates, these had foolishly all targeted the point of Jason's
previous position;  he easily avoided their fire.

    But now they fired again!  They had come to a stop and
apparently planned to divert all of their mighty gravitonic power
to blasting away at Jason with their cannon.  Then he saw the
other two pirate sailships fire again then come to a stop also.
He was now trapped between seven dangerous pirate sailships --
three behind plus the slower pirate hurriedly catching up, and
three in front -- the largest collective force he had ever heard
of!  And they were all firing on him!

    They were not trying to destroy him -- they wanted his
precious Infinity City sailship and any supply of the Pill of
Life he might possess.  If just one of their gravitonic cannon
bolts struck his sailship, his gravitonic sails would vaporize
and his wonderful sailship would become a sitting duck to be
easily boarded, looted, and towed away.  He and Dalton would be
killed, if they resisted -- or worse;  sold into slavery if they
did not.

    Dismally all too aware of these possibilities Jason now
determinably swung his ship back and forth, desperately avoiding
the cannonfire from two sides while from time to time getting off
bursts of his own.

    The pirates were no longer stationary themselves but were
forced to reduce their own cannonfire as they swung their own
ships back and forth to chaotically avoid not just Jason's blasts
but also the crossfire from the pirates on Jason's opposite side.
The slowest pirate -- the very first Jason had seen -- had only
just arrived on the scene when a cannon shot from the opposite
side that Jason had just barely avoided came streaking in.  The
captain of the relatively slower sailship could not maneuver away
in time and came to an abrupt halt as the gravitonic bolt struck
his ship, blasting his delicate gravitonic sails to atoms.

    Again and again the pirates fired on Jason.  Due to their
general disorganization and confusion, Jason was able to avoid
their crossfire by quickly maneuvering away from each bolt, and
also periodically firing his particle-beam antimissile system
with its dismally long charging cycle.  But he could not keep
this up forever!  All the pirates would have to do is employ any
simple coordinated attack and Jason would not be able to dodge in
time.  They could even wait for him to grow weary and sleep!
Jason would have to take turns with Dalton.  But how long could
they withstand a siege on both sides from this pirate armada?

    As if to hammer home the dilemma of the situation, a near
miss overloaded Jason's east sail.  Jason heard a loud hiss from
somewhere in the gravitonic systems as a breaker clamped down,
safely shunting the overload out of the sail system.

    If Jason tried to flee by sailing out of the gravitonic
current to the side, he would slow down to a crawl on the meager
gravitonic drifts outside a true current, leaving himself an easy
target for the five active pirates.

    He could storm past the group of pirates in front, and hope
to escape down the nearby branch.  But at close range he would
not be able to avoid their cannon.  And all six pirates would be
firing on his fleeing sailship.

    What could they do??  Jason skillfully swung his sailship
this way and that, fired his gravitonic cannon again and again,
fired the particle weapon each time it had charged.  He was only
just able to keep the pirates at bay.  His uniform was soaked
with sweat.  Jason blinked and wiped his drenched forehead on his
sleeve.  He cursed under his breath.  This was too much!  How
could he keep up this pace??  He could not turn it over to the
computer;  there were too many decisions he had to make solely
based on intuition.

    And then suddenly, the pirates stopped firing.  Jason peered
at the situation screen intently, grinding his teeth in
apprehension.  They were all still moving, turning in odd
directions.  What was going on?  Then he realized their plan, for
indeed they had finally come up with something, undoubtedly
communicating on a gravitonic carrier wave -- scrambled, of
course, otherwise Jason's communication scanner would have
detected any messages.  The three pirates behind Jason were now
following each other around in a circular path.  The three other
pirates before Jason were doing the same, three sailships chasing
each other around an endless circle.  The plane of the circles of
both sets of pirates were parallel to each other so from Jason's
point of view he saw each flat on, going round and round.  Their
circles were almost as wide as the gravitonic current and it
almost seemed the pirates were sliding along the inside of the
tube-shaped current around and around.

    Jason fired his gravitonic cannon at one of the three
pirates circling before him;  he aimed slightly ahead of the
pirates circular path to compensate for the pirate's motion.  The
pirate simply slowed down, let the cannon bolt pass before him,
then he sped back up until in his original position.

    It was a great plan, Jason had to admit.  Now the pirates
would be able to easily avoid Jason's fire and their own
crossfire by simply slowing down or speeding up along their
circular paths without any chaotic maneuvers.

    Jason watched them closely, firing his own cannon again and
again.  They easily avoided each shot.  They themselves had not
begun to fire.  Undoubtedly, the pirates, in close communication
with each other, were greatly enjoying the plight of their
helpless prey between them.  Jason imagined the captains of the
outlaw ships laughing with glee at their clever plan.  Whoever
thought it up was indeed clever.  He would probably also have
each pirate craft target a different point around Jason's
sailship making it near impossible for Jason to avoid their fire.
It looked like the end had come.

    Jason looked over at Dalton still wearing his V-R helmet and
frantically manipulating his arms about.  Jason felt a surge of
guilt for getting the poor boy into all this.  Of course, Dalton
HAD stowed away aboard the ship.  Jason shook his head and swore
softly, hating himself for not turning around after leaving
Infinity City and taking the boy back.  They would now both be
killed, for Jason would not allow himself to be captured and sold
into slavery.  He would not even allow them to have his ship.  As
soon as the pirates blasted his gravitonic sails, Jason would go
down to the bowels of the ship, open the chamber to the
antimatter bleeder pods, remove the safeguards, then quietly
order the computer to blow up the ship.  It would be painless...
and honorable.  But his parents, his best friend John One, or
anyone on Infinity City would ever know what had happened to him.
He would just be another Adventurer who had never come back.

    These thoughts had only taken a moment.  Jason turned back
quickly to his command console.  He would make a run past the
orbiting pirates in front with his gravitonic cannon blazing,
trying to reach the nearby gravitonic branch.  Perhaps, he would
disable one or two of the pirates before himself getting knocked

    But then, with a sinking heart he saw from his situation
screen that the pirates had all begun to fire at once.  Jason
checked the particle-beam antimissile system, found it at full
charge, and then almost laconically fired the particle-beam to
destroy at least one of the approaching bolts.

    He was about to pull his ship hard over to avoid the other
rapidly approaching bolts when he noticed a quick movement at the
particle-beam console -- the charging indicator was streaking
across the board!  In the wink of an eye the damn system had come
to full charge again!  Jason stared at the readout, stunned for
only a moment.  He shook himself realizing that Dalton had
switched the particle-beam's power source over to the mighty
gravitonic generator -- Jason still had trouble exactly
understanding how Dalton was able to convert the differing power

    Jason bent quickly to the particle-beam controls, swung the
device over to aim at the next approaching gravitonic bolt and
fired.  The other remaining cannon bolts were only seconds away!
But the particle weapon charged almost instantly.  Jason fired
again at the remaining bolt in front then swung the particle
weapon around to the other side of his ship and fired, charged,
fired again, charged, and with only a second remaining fired at
the final cannon bolt -- the last being so close that Jason heard
the ship's electromagnetic deflector fields automatically snap on
to protect the ship from the intense particle wave from the
nearby explosion of the pirate's gravitonic bolt.  He had beaten
off their attack!  Each pirate bolt had been absorbed by Jason's
particle beams.

    But they were firing again!  Jason fired back with the newly
rapid-charging particle weapon.  He cried loudly with glee and
began firing his own gravitonic cannon.  They now had a chance!
Jason thought, with thankful excitement, his young partner Dalton
was a genius!  Dalton was saying something over the pilot room's
speaker but Jason was not paying attention and could barely hear
it over the computers rapid vocal reports regarding ship systems
and enemy activity.

    Dalton finally ripped off his V-R helmet, unstrapped himself
from his pilot seat, jumped over and grabbed Jason's shoulder.
"Jason!  Jason!  Aim for their ships!  You can destroy them!"

    Without taking his eyes from the situation screen, the grav
cannon and particle weapon boards Jason barked, "What?!  How?
What are you talking about?"  Then he added excitedly, "Dalton,
you did it!  The particle weapon's charging almost

    "It does even more, Jason!  Look how fast it shoots!  Can't
you see it's faster-than-light?!  I was able to add a gravitonic
envelope split off from the gravitonic power source.  It shoots
as fast as a gravitonic cannon now, Jason!"

    WHAT?! Jason thought.  THAT WAS IMPOSSIBLE!  Then he
suddenly realized that he had been hitting the approaching
gravitonic bolts though light-hours away almost instantaneously.

The particle-beams were, impossibly though it seemed, indeed
travelling as fast as the gravitonic bolts.

    "Jason, you can destroy their ships with the particle-beams!
Hit 'em!  Hit 'em!"

    "Good idea, kid..."

    Jason now unfurled the sails all the way and with the
gravitonic generator already at maximum the sailship jerked
forward and tore back toward the three orbiting pirate ships

    Something happened that Jason had not foreseen.  The pirates
panicked at the sight of Jason's aggressive attack, broke from
their circular path, turned and fled.  Jason pumped the particle-
beam weapon at the closest.  His own ship began to slow from the
weapons draw on the gravitonic generator.  The pirate jerked this
way and that to avoid Jason's fire.  He was finally struck!  The
image of the pirate on Jason's situation screen came to an abrupt
stop.  Without waiting, Jason aimed at the second and third
pirates and fired again and again.  The pirates began evasive
maneuvers but Jason was in close.  He fired again and again.  The
pirates were too foolish to flee in separate directions.  This
made it easy for Jason to target both.  Almost at the same time
both pirate craft came to an abrupt stop.  Jason, with Dalton
peering eagerly over his shoulder at the situation screen, now
noticed the image of the first pirate struck with the new weapon
was slowly expanding.  Jason requested telemetry data for all
three and the computer reported intense atomic radiation -- the
first ship had blown completely, the two showed debris and an
expanding cloud of lost atmosphere.  All three had been destroyed
in only minutes!

    Jason now checked the three remaining pirates.  They too had
broken from their circular path and were now advancing on him
rapidly.  Their recently fired gravitonic bolts were only seconds
away!  Jason swung his ship around to avoid the bolts, targeted
the pirates and began blasting away with the miraculous graviton
enveloped particle-beam.  The pirates chaotically broke ranks to
avoid the beams -- evidently, they had no defensive beams of
their own, designed with large gravitonic systems to either
attack or run.  Jason swung around and moved in toward the
panicked pirates while continuing to fire.  In their haste to
avoid his particle-beams the pirates moved in tight, random arcs,
not realizing until too late that Jason was drawing closer.  His
shots were getting closer and closer.  Finally, one of the
pirates saw what was happening and tried to break and run.  The
pirate was an easy target.  With intense satisfaction, Jason
fired off a particle-beam shot that was a direct hit.  The
situation screen showed the pirate jerk to a stop then slowly
expand into a cloud of debris gas.

    Jason maneuvered on the remaining two like a fox chasing two
chickens.  He was so close now it was child's play.  Child's
play!  "Dalton!", he cried.  "Take the particle weapon controls!
I'll concentrate on maneuvering!"

    "Aye, aye, Jason!", cried Dalton joyfully as he leapt to the
console, steadying himself from the ship's swaying motion by
gripping the console itself.

    Jason brought the ship deftly around on an intercepting
course with the nearest pirate.  Dalton aimed perfectly and
blasted the pirate before the nearby ship could move out of the

way.  Jason brought the sailship around and sailed after the
remaining pirate at maximum speed.  The pirate tried to flee but
they caught up quickly and Dalton finished him off, Jason's
sailship slamming to a complete stop as Dalton shunted all power
from the gravitonic system into his new weapon, blasting the
pirate craft so strongly that its image lasted only seconds
before its dissipating vaporous debris became too thin to scan.
Three more of the pirates destroyed!

    Still feeling intense battle lust, Jason brought the
sailship around and sailed back up the gravitonic current, past
the debris of the five vaporized ships.  He approached the very
first slow pirate they had seen that had been disabled but not
destroyed by crossfire from the other pirates.  The pirate now
radioed a plea for mercy.  Jason, without responding, looked over
at Dalton with an evil grin and ordered, "He attacked first.  Pay
him back, Dalton!"

    Dalton laughed with glee at his partner's ruthlessness and
fired the particle-beam weapon once.  The pirate was destroyed.

    They continued back up the current to the first branch where
they had disabled the second pirate ship they had seen.  This
time the pirates onboard sought to avoid death by warning Jason
of retribution from their fellows if they were attacked.  With
sinister tones they warned Jason that seven other ships would be
on his tail any moment.  Jason radioed back that the rest were
already destroyed.  Then he ordered Dalton to fire.  The last of
the attacking pirates was finished off!

    And also, unfortunately, was Dalton's marvelous hybrid
weapon.  The computer reported the problem.  They discovered the
conduit between the gravitonic system and the particle-beam
weapon was almost completely destroyed -- enveloping the
particle-beams with a gravitonic sheath, it turned out, created a
strange high-energy backwave along the conduit that its material
could not withstand.

    Jason doubted they would meet any more pirates.  Once this
bunch failed to return, there would be no one else from The Gouge
black hole to try again...

    Quickly, he turned the ship around and headed back up the
gravitonic current in search of the gravitonic whirlpool and the
colony ship.

    As they sailed away from the remains of the pirate ship
Jason ordered the computer to continue the gravitonic radar
search for the whirlpool.  To the astonishment of both Jason and
Dalton, the computer reported that the whirlpool had been
detected several hours ago.  They looked at each other in
puzzlement -- that would have had to been during their encounter
with the pirates.  Jason ordered the computer to display the
location on the 3D screen.  The computer had detected ripples
from the titanic phenomenon faintly emanating down the branching
gravitonic current that Jason had first ducked into where he had
encountered the third and fourth pirates.  The whirlpool was down
that current!  Jason grunted in amazement.  If they had not been
chased in there by the pirates, the computer would never have
detected the ripples, and they may never have discovered the

    Jason pulled back on the gravitonic power, slowed the
sailship down, then smoothly came about.  They sailed back down
the current, grinned at each other knowingly as they saw the

debris from the pirate craft, and turned into the branching
current.  The gravitonic radar system began reporting the faint
signs that indicated the whirlpool.

    Nervous there might be more pirates, Jason thoroughly
scanned far ahead but there were no more sailships, pirates or
otherwise, within the current.

    Just before they dropped to their bunks exhausted, the
computer running the ship on automatic, Jason entered a rather
animated description of their encounter with the pirates into the
ship's logbook.  He winked at Dalton assuring him the account
would definitely make the front page of the "Infinity City
Journal of Recent Adventuring."


    This present gravitonic current brought them near the
whirlpool.  They slid open the shield that had covered the pilot
room's transparent dome to see what the whirlpool looked like to
the naked eye.  Gravitons were invisible sub-atomic particles, so
there was nothing to be seen of them.  However, gravitons easily
deflected the photons that carried light.  The whirlpool swirled
around along a two-dimensional plane, and actually did bend light
making the starlight that shown through it appear to swirl about
and head toward the whirlpool's center like a smoke ring with a
very small hole.  It really looked like the stars were being
washed down a drain, but this was an optical illusion.

    Vast torrents of gravitons whirled inward toward the donut-
shaped whirlpool's center.  On each side of the center, two
immense spouts of gravitons shot outward in opposite directions
forming two tubular-shaped gravitonic currents.  Had the colony
ship fallen down one of these "chutes"?  There was a method known
to Jason that could lead to an answer.

    Sailships could communicate with each other across vast
distances, and almost instantaneously.  By modulating their
gravitonic sails at certain special resonant frequencies and
phasings, they could send waves along the inside of gravitonic
currents.  The sails of a sailship anywhere along the same
gravitonic current would resonate at the transmitted frequency,
effectively receiving the "broadcast."  The receiving sailship
would be equipped with sensitive gear to receive the message and
translate into coherent information.  There was only a handful of
feasible carrier frequencies, but the bandwidths were wide enough
to allow audio/visual signals, and high rate computer data.
Unfortunately, many gravitonic currents were particularly noisy
due to nearby interference from certain kinds of stars and other
cosmic phenomena.  In these cases, good old Morse code was the
only means of long distance communication.

    But, there was another advantage to a sailship's ability to
send waves vibrating through gravitonic fields.  When the waves
struck massive objects, they bounced back!  This was one way
scouting sailships located new worlds along convenient gravitonic
currents, and it was called GRAVITONIC RADAR.  This was also how
Jason figured he would determine if the colony ship was inside

one of the two huge currents spouting out either side of the

    He climbed to the pilot room, and checked their present
course with the computer.  Their path was now almost tangent to
the whirlpool, and soon they would pass it by.  The two spouts of
gravitons, shooting out of both sides of the hub of the whirlpool
were perpendicular to the current they were now in.  Jason
brought the ship out of the current, and around, heading down
toward the spout pouring out in a southern Galactic direction.
The ship slowed considerably.  Though there were no local
gravitonic currents, there were enough "gusts," from the local
effects of the whirlpool, to allow them to maneuver, and head
toward the southerly spout without getting much closer to the
dangerous whirlpool itself.

    If the ship had slid down one of the spouts, it would not
have gone far.  No matter how much the whirlpool had accelerated
it, without gravitonic sails it could not even travel as fast as
light.  It had been missing for 87 years, implying that it could
be no farther than 87 light-years away, a considerable range for
even a sailship to search.

    As they headed toward the southerly spout, Jason allowed
Dalton to take the helm.  He watched Dalton proudly as the youth
skillfully detected each new gust, determined its direction and
magnitude, then trimmed and angled the sails to keep the ship
heading toward the southerly spout.

    Jason went below to ready the gravitonic radar set up in one
of the workshops.  How useful it was to have a shipmate!  And, he
really trusted Dalton, too.  He got the radar working, interfaced
its controls to the ship's computer, then went back up to the
pilot room.

    Looking over Dalton's shoulder at the computer display he
found that they had more than covered half the distance to the
spouting southerly current.  It was getting late, however both of
them were too anxious to postpone their operation until morning.
Jason told the computer to send for two cups of coffee.

    Soon, there suddenly came a knock at the hatch in the floor
of the pilot room.  Jason looked down in surprise.  Dalton
started snickering.  Jason told the computer to open the hatch,
and when it slid open, there was one of the little robots sitting
on the elevator with two steaming cups of coffee resting on top
of it.

    Jason picked them up carefully, and asked suspiciously, "Did
you program it to knock?"

    Dalton answered proudly, "Yes.  But, only for certain tasks
that aren't time-critical.  Hey, there's no cream in mine!"

    "We ran out."

    "Hmm.  We have powdered milk left, don't we?", asked Dalton.

    "Yeah.  Tell it to bring you some."

    "Oh, I don't care...  Hey, this doesn't taste so bad!"

    "Ah, you're acquiring a taste for good coffee, the mark of a
seasoned Adventurer.  Our galley is currently featuring coffee
beans from South America on Earth."

    "From Earth?  The home planet?"

    "Yeah, it's a hell of place.  You can get anything there."

    "I stopped there once, back when I was a kid."

    "With your dad?"

    "Yeah," Dalton did not mind mentioning his father.  He
remembered only the good times with him, and no longer thought
about his tragic ending.  Space was a dangerous place, and people
got killed.  "We did some trading at the Riyad space port."

    "That's their biggest one.  I believe it's now the biggest
in the Galaxy."

    "I was just studying about it a few days ago.  It IS the
biggest in the Galaxy.  I saw a map of that part of the world.
It's on a gigantic peninsula, in the middle of a huge, flat
desert, just perfect for a space port.  It's been there forever!"

    "Yeah, since the time of the Original Builders."

    "The ones that built Infinity City?"

    "Yep.  I think they even launched from Riyad.  It's hard to
remember.  It was a long time ago when I had to read the legends
back in school."

    "What legends?"

    "That's what they call the diaries and written accounts left
behind by the Original Builders.  But, the actual physical
originals are all gone, and we only have copies of the text
stored in the Infinity City Library.  Some people don't think
they are authentic at all.  There's no way to tell.  That's why
we call 'em the LEGENDS.  They teach them in the schools, though.
Seemed pretty believable to me."

    "What are some of the legends?"

    "Oh, Dalton, I can't remember.  Ask the computer.  They're
all there.  But, not right now.  You're busy flying the ship,

    At the reminder, Dalton grinned over at him glowing with
pride and excitement.

    Jason switched the radar control system into a nearby view-
screen.  It was all warmed up and ready to go.

    Taking advantage of side winds from the approaching
southerly gravitonic current, Dalton increased the speed of the
sailship, and soon they closed on the southerly current.  "My
turn," announced Jason, and Dalton reluctantly traded positions
with him.  It could be tricky plunging into this strange, new
kind of current.  But, the gravitonic radar only worked on the
inside of a gravitonic current.  And Jason was a very experience
pilot.  He ordered the computer to make sure all objects within
the ship were secure, and he told it to cover the pilot room
dome.  After a few minutes, after the three little utility robots
had picked up, the computer reported "All secure."  It was time
to enter the rapid southerly current.

    Jason flipped out the manual controls from within the arms
of the pilot chair.  Dalton leaned forward from his own seat

eagerly watching every move.  Jason swung the ship over to a
course parallel to the southerly current spouting out and away
from the whirlpool.  Jason was secretly relieved to be moving
away from the looming donut-shaped monstrous thing.  As he slowly
moved closer to the current, the side "winds" picked up, moving
the ship along faster and faster.  Small eddy currents between
the side winds and the main current began jostling and rocking
the ship.  The spout from the whirlpool was as strong as the
currents rocketing out from the poles of a star!

    When they finally entered the main current, the ship surged
this way and that in unpredictable directions.  This current was
rapid, and almost unstable!  He did not want to remain in it for
very long.  "Computer, tell the gravitonic radar to begin
scanning the current."


    They shot down the gravitonic current rapidly.  The radar
antenna swung slowly back and forth, up and down, sending waves
down the entire cross-section of the current.  Minutes passed.
They watched the radar screen expectantly.  No echoes.

    After 15 slow minutes, there was activity on the radar
screen!  Dalton left the secondary pilot seat to stare over
Jason's should at the radar screen.  Some kind of pattern!  But,
it was weak, and distorted, and changing constantly.  The radar
computer flashed an analysis at the bottom of the screen:  "ECHO

    Dalton looked at Jason quizzically, "No ship?"

    "No ship," Jason said with disappointment.  "That's the echo
from the radar.  The waves have gone all the way to the end of
the current, and some have bounced all the way back.  Computer,
how long is the current?"


    "Computer, how much time passed between the start of the
radar signal and the return of the echo?"

    "15.3 minutes."

    "Computer, determine the length of the current from that

    "580 light-years."

    "My God!", cried Jason.  "That's the longest current I've
ever heard of!  We'll have to report this to the Guard.  Hey,
Dalton, we'll get written up in the INFINITY CITY JOURNAL OF

    "Wow, that's great!  I'll bet the northern current is just
as long."

    "Yeah, maybe the colony ship is in that one.  Computer,
terminate the radar.  Man, I'm getting sleepy.  Let's get out
into dead space, and 'drop anchor' for the night."

    "Can I pilot the ship?", Dalton asked expectantly.

    "After I get us out of this wild current..."  Jason brought
the ship over, and slid quickly out of the gravitonic current.

They switched places, and Dalton carefully piloted them away from
the current, following a perpendicular course.

    Once they were far enough away, barely drifting, Jason
ordered the computer to take in all sail, and retract the struts.
As a further thought, he ordered the little robots to crawl
around the strut housings, and sail storage cans, checking for
any damage from the long voyage.  Normally, the computer could
deduce damage from any change in a sail's behavior.  But visual
inspection was required periodically.

    They dragged themselves tiredly down to the living quarter.
Jason swung the bed down from the ceiling for himself, and
collapsed onto it.  Dalton opened up the cabinet, he had
originally stowed away in.  Here, he had made a cozy nest of
blankets and pillows for himself.  It was a strange place to
sleep, but it had one major advantage:  The cabinet door could be
closed when Jason's snoring was at its loudest!

    The next morning, Jason rolled out of bed early, showered
and dried in the little hygiene cubicle.  He then pulled on a
fresh one-piece coverall, and went over and tapped the door to
Dalton's sleeping cabinet.  The door remained closed, there was
no sound.  Jason opened the door and looked in.  There were
rumpled blankets and pillows but no Dalton.  Hmm.  "Where's
Dalton?", he asked the computer.  "Pilot room," it replied.

    Jason proceeded up to the pilot room where he found Dalton
at the controls, tacking the ship back and forth through the side
winds just outside the southerly current.  He was heading back
toward the whirlpool so they could investigate the northerly
current.  "Being careful?", Jason murmured.

    "Of course," responded Dalton, confidently.  Jason approved,
and thought to himself:  I LOVE THIS KID!

    "Computer," Jason inquired, "how close is the whirlpool?"

    "Thirteen minutes at present rate of progress."

    "That's close enough!  Set a course tangent to the
whirlpool, Dalton, and go around it."

    "Aye, aye, skipper!", he cried gleefully, and followed with
a series of commands to the computer to help him astronavigate
around the menacing whirlpool.


    There were many gravitonic gusts up from the whirlpool, but
due to their instability, progress was much slower than it had
been through the stronger side-winds.  It took over two hours to
skirt the whirlpool.  Halfway along, when they were adjacent to
the plane of the whirlwind's spin, they sped up slightly due to
the incoming gravitons coalescing to form the whirlpool.

    Once on the other side, they slowly maneuvered up to the
northerly spout, with Jason once again at the controls.  Once
inside the northerly spout, surging this way and that due to its
mild instability, equal to the southern current, Jason activated
the radar again.  This time, after only two minutes, they heard a
sharp ping from the view-screen showing the radar status!

    There on the screen an image was taking shape.  As the radar
continued to sweep ahead, the computer analyzed the echoes to
build a picture of an object farther down the gravitonic current.
Even though the gravitonic current was rapid and strong, it
seemed free from significant external noise.  The returning echo
was very sharp.  The image on the screen grew clearer.

    Jason and Dalton peered breathlessly at what the computer
was drawing.  They looked at each other amazed!  Jason said,
"Guess what we just found, Dalton, old buddy!"

    There on the screen, in sharp contrast to the black of
surrounding space, a gray object was displayed.  It was shaped
like a tapering cigar, with landing fins on the sides at one end.

    Dalton looked back at the image, "Looks just like the
pictures in the news report!"  He whirled around, and grabbed
Jason's arms.  "We found it, Jason!  The missing colony ship!  We
FOUND it!  We'll get written up in the INFINITY CITY JOURNAL OF

    "That's right, kid.  You're an official Adventurer now!"

    Dalton whooped with excitement and leaped around the pilot
room.  Jason chuckled, and reminded him to be careful around the

    Dalton ran up to the radar screen, looked again, then looked
up at Jason, his eyes bright with excitement.  "Let's go get 'em!
Let's go rescue them!"

    "Take it easy," Jason replied calmly.  "You forgot
something.  Computer, calculate the distance of the ship on the
radar screen using the time it takes the radar echo to go out and
come back?"

    The computer reported, "88.7 light-years."

    Dalton groaned, "Oh, no!  That'll take weeks!"

    "Yeah, I know.  They've been sliding down this current for a
long time.  Hey wait a minute!"  Jason looked up at the ceiling
frowning in thought.  "If that ship was reported missing about 87
years ago, and it's 88.7 light-years away from this whirlpool,
then they're almost going the speed of light!  Dalton, they must
be living at a SNAILS PACE!"

    "Wow!  Because they're so close to the speed of light?"

    "Yes!  We're going to meet the original crew and colonists
that lifted off 97 years ago!  It's only been a short time for
them.  Just a few years..."  He asked the computer to make some
calculations based on how long it would have taken the colony
ship to travel from its home world to the whirlpool.  "It's only
been about seven years for them!"  He shook his head, "They're
watching the stars go zipping by a dozen times faster than they
should.  They must be terrified!  Dalton, let's go help 'em out!"

    "All right!"

    The computer was instructed to proceed down the current.
But due to its mild instability, Jason and Dalton spent as much
of their time as they could in the pilot room, in case anything
unexpected happened.  Jason kept the radar scanning continuously.
It would warn them if anything ELSE, that might have been sucked
down this spout by the whirlpool, was in their way.

    Day by day, they drew closer to the colony ship.  Day by
day, their excitement rose.


    It would soon be time to begin slowing down to match the
velocity of the colony ship.  This required such accuracy that
only the computer could accomplish it.  The unusually long
gravitonic current rapidly moved at over 1,000 times the speed of
light.  The colony ship however, without any faster-than-light
mechanism for gravitonic interaction, was being dragged along at
only little more than nine tenths the speed of light.

    Jason set up a program in the computer to smoothly reduce
their speed slowly down, achieving the speed of the colony ship
at a point just in front of it.  Then, they would carefully
maneuver closer.

    Jason initiated the process though the colony ship still a
few days ahead.  He wanted room for error.

    They slowed down easily.  The first day passed.  Then the
second.  Then the third.  But as they grew closer to the speed of
the colony ship, a frustrating development occurred.

    The gravitonic current was extremely fast, and also slightly
unstable.  This instability resulted in mild surging movements of
the sailship in random directions.  No problem at very high
speeds.  But as the sailship had slowed way down, the surgings
had a stronger effect, as if the gravitonic current was being
pumped along by a gigantic Galactic heart.  They would not be
able to rendezvous with the colony ship with this unstable
current surging the gravitonic sails this way and that, distances
100 times the very length of the colony ship.  There was no way
to board the colony ship while it was inside this gravitonic
current.  Was it possible to move it out?

    While they considered this problem, yet another developed.
At their present speed, one thousand times less than the speed of
the gravitonic current, the surgings had become very powerful,
and warning devices reported undue strain on the ship's
gravitonic sails.

    This was easy to solve.  They simply tacked slowly over, and
popped out the side of the gravitonic current into the gentler
side winds, where they discovered it was easy to maintain the
slower velocity.  So easy in fact that they brought the sailship
through the side winds up parallel with the colony ship's
position in the gravitonic current.  But now they were at an

    They sat around the pilot room discussing the problem for
hours.  With the aid of the computer's sophisticated data query
capability, they poured through its atomic memory files looking
for any similar problem ever recorded in the annals of Infinity
City Adventuring.  There was nothing.  They had the computer
search all volumes of the JOURNAL OF RECENT ADVENTURING.  Still
nothing.  Just that single article by the Adventurer who had
first discovered this whirlpool.  And when Dalton noted the name
of that Adventurer, he gasped out loud, his eyes growing wide.

He looked at Jason.  "That's the Adventurer I grew up with!  This
story is about when WE got stuck in a whirlpool.  Jason, it's the
same whirlpool!"

    Jason was amazed, and then something dark stirred in him.
"You mean this guy here is the one that dumped you in Infinity

    Dalton looked down at the floor, remembering that awful
time.  "Yes."

    Only a summary of the article's highlights had been
displayed.  Jason now requested the entire article.  There was a
picture of the Adventurer!  He was fat, with small black eyes
that were cockeyed.  And he was also BALD!

     The PILL OF LIFE could not control balding.  This was a
genetic defect causing a mild destructive incompatibility between
certain male hormones, aggravated by prolonged physiological
stress.  This trait was rare in Infinity City, where genetic
defects could be cured by a treatment causing a molecular chain-
reaction within all the cells of the body resulting in the repair
of a given defect for every single DNA molecule.  ( Note:  The
cause of aging, like all bodily functions, was rooted in the DNA
molecules.  Unfortunately, it involved a complex interaction
between so many different genes that no one had yet invented a
chain-reaction repair.  Fortunately, this complex interaction,
discovered long ago, was easily inhibited with the PILL. )

    This particular Adventurer obviously had an off-world parent
with questionable genetic structures.

    Dalton groaned looking at the picture.  "That's him!"  His
voice began to shake.  "He...  He killed..."

    Jason interrupted, "That's all right.  Don't think about it
right now.  We'll catch up with him someday."  Jason memorized
the face.  This guy deserved payback for what he had done to
Dalton.  Then, he saw that the article reported the man, a
certain Bartholomew Katz, had retired on a world around Rigel
after phenomenal gains by his investments during the ninety three
years he had been away.  NINETY THREE!?

    Jason whirled around to face Dalton, who was sadly looking
off into space.  "Dalton!", he shouted.  Dalton snapped his head
around to look at Jason in surprise.  "According to this article,
you were stuck close to the speed of light for 93 years!
You're...  How the hell old are you anyway?"

    "I just turned 16 on my birthday, remember?"

    "Oh, yeah.  But you're really over 100 years old, Infinity
City time."

    "What?", Dalton said slowly.

    "The article says this Katz creep returned to Infinity City
93 years after he had last been there.  Do you remember ever
being in Infinity City before?  Maybe that's where your mother

    "No, we never stopped there.  Captain Katz hated the

    Jason interrupted irritably, "Don't call him CAPTAIN!  He's
a..."  Jason checked himself, not wishing to call him a killer
reminding poor Dalton about his father.  "He's just a criminal!"

    "Yeah, okay.  He sure is."  And now something happened
inside Dalton, and all the pain from all the bad memories caused
by the Adventurer Katz, changed from sorrow into anger.  A hot,
burning desire for revenge!  "Yeah, I'm gonna get him, someday!"

    "You bet!  But we've got plenty of time.  He's not going
anywhere, or getting any older.  So, you never went to Infinity
City before five years ago?"

    "No, I'm sure we didn't.  My father told me about all the
worlds we stopped at while I was still too little to remember.
But, you know, I remember the two of them talking about Infinity
City once.  They were talking about somebody from there.  And it
made them angry, and they started fighting..."  Suddenly, he
closed his eyes tightly, grimacing, and shaking his head.  "No!
I don't want to think about that!"

    Jason took hold of him, "Hey, take it easy, Dalton.  All
that's behind, and gone, now.  Come on, let's get back to work."
He decided to change the subject.  "How are we going to help
these colonists?"

    Dalton relaxed.  "Yeah, we've got to rescue them..."

    Jason quickly removed the article from the screen.  "If we
could figure out some way to get that ship out of the current,
and out here where there's no surging, we'd have it solved."
They began pouring over all the complex gravitonic theory stored
in the ship's atomic memory.

    It was horribly intricate.  The mathematics displayed on the
screen before Jason were mind boggling to comprehend.  Dalton had
plugged the computers virtual-reality helmet in, put it one, and
was using its visual representation capabilities to study the
relationships between gravitons, other sub-atomic particles,
their wave characteristics, and the other fundamental forces:
electro-magnetism, nuclear weak, and nuclear strong.  It was all
so amazingly symmetrical when represented by the V-R generated
various geometrical shapes with alternating sizes and colors,
even sounds, representing the functional relationships.  He could
manipulate the virtual objects by just reaching out with his
hands, as if his hands reached right into the virtual-reality.
He could even see his hands there in the V-R, colored a bright
glossy white.  Actually, the ship's computer simply monitored the
movement of his hands and displayed their counterpart in the

    Jason watched Dalton sitting there, with the sophisticated
V-R helmet tightly covering his head.  A breathing apparatus
ventilating the helmet, providing fresh air.  This particular
model sealed off the mouth so that the wearer could not be heard
speaking, or even shouting.  The dull white helmet with nothing
resembling the human features of eyes, ears, or mouth made Dalton
look like some kind of alien.  Jason's lip curled involuntarily.
He was revolted by V-R, the use of which gave him unbearable
feelings of anxiety.

    Dalton was moving his hands around, grabbing invisible
things, moving and pushing them here and there, completely at
home in virtual-reality.  His feet also would periodically swing
in different directions.  Dalton had told Jason that was how you
told the computer to move you around in the virtual-reality.

    This all gave Jason an eerie feeling.  What if it bent the
mind?  What if it permanently affected perception of REAL
reality.  REAL REALITY?!  He said aloud, "Hey, Dalton, is that
thing helping?  Dalton??..."  The helmet completely sealed Dalton
off from outside sight and sound.

    "Computer, can you pipe my voice into Dalton's V-R?"

    "Both your voice and image can be displayed inside his

    "Well, beam me in there, would you..."

    There was a pause, then the computer reported, "Your image
and voice are now being duplicated within his virtual-reality."

    "Hey, Dalton," Jason spoke.

    Dalton jerked the helmet around and faced Jason, so
surprised at suddenly seeing Jason in the virtual-reality amid
the floating sub-atomic particle representations, that he almost
fell off his chair.

    Jason started chuckling at the surprised ALIEN.  "Hey, is
that virtual-reality helping any.  I think it's kind of

    Dalton sat facing him for a few moments, and began shaking
in a funny way.  The computer reported, "Dalton has requested
transmission of his voice into the pilot room."

    "Go ahead!", replied Jason.

    Suddenly he heard Dalton laughing, the sound coming out of
the computer's speaker.  "Hi, Jason!  What are YOU doing here?"


    "Hey, watch out for that graviton, Jason!  Oh, no!  Wow, it
went right through you...  This is great!  You gotta try it!
And, I think I know what we can do to get the colony ship out of
the current.  Put on the other helmet and I'll show you..."

    Normally, that would have been the last thing Jason wanted
to do.  But, he did not want Dalton to think he was scared.  And,
he could not easily excuse himself with his usual remark: "I
DON'T CARE FOR V-R GAMES."  With a sigh, he pulled the other
helmet out the cabinet below one of the control panels.  The
virtual-reality helmets were there primarily for sailship
technicians to check out the sailship at the Infinity City space
port for preventive maintenance purposes.

    Jason told the computer to toss him into the same virtual-
reality as Dalton, then, with a groan, he donned the helmet.
Instantly, he could tell that the last wearer had been a smoker.
Hey, that had been him!  He'd smoked his last cigar after he'd
last landed in Infinity City (where smoking was banned) just
before a technician made him use the virtual-reality helmet to
look at some small problem in an impossible-to-reach component of
the gravitonic system.

    He pulled the helmet down tightly, wiggling it around until
he felt his eyes, ears, and mouth snugly covered by internal
rubber cups.  Then he lifted a hand up under his chin to slide a
mechanical lever to the side moving the rubber cups inward
sealing him in.  All was black and silent.  This part he liked.

It was relaxing.  "Okay, computer, I'm ready."  Slowly, light
grew around him, and he saw all the bouncing, floating gravitonic
theories.  Vertigo began to grow within him, but he breathed
deeply and regularly, bringing it under control.

    Suddenly, there was a high-pitched growling roar from right
beside him!  He whirled to find himself face to face with a
gigantic Kodiak bear!

    "It's just me, Jason," the bear said.  "Computer, show me as
Dalton again."  And, instantly the bear disappeared to be
replaced by Dalton.  The computer was transmitting Jason's three-
dimensional image into the virtual-reality, and Dalton could see
the enraged expression on Jason's face.  "Hey, now don't get mad,
Jason.  I was just playing!"

    "Playing, huh?!  Let's see how YOU like it!  Computer, turn
me into a lion!"

    "That is not possible," informed the computer.

    "The key phrase is 'SHOW ME AS.'", Dalton instructed.

    "Okay.  Computer, SHOW ME AS a lion!"

    "Command not specific enough," the computer complained.
"Specify North American cougar, extinct African lion, or extinct
European lion."

    "Oh, never mind.  Dalton," and Jason looked around at all
the multi-colored floating spheres, boxes, pyramids, and lines.
"What are all these things?  And, computer, decrease the visual
intensity 30%, the brightness is bothering my eyes.  And stop
transmitting Dalton's breathing sounds, it's like he's right in
my ear..."  Dalton explained what they were looking at, amid
Jason's frequent complaints about other aspects of virtual-

    Dalton then set up a model showing the gravitonic current as
a flowing blue stream, the colony ship (colored gray) inside, and
their own sailship floating just on the outside, with the
gravitonic sails, a billowing shimmering white, and the sailship
a bright yellow, which Dalton preferred over the ship's actual
iron gray color that Jason had chosen for its distinction.

    Then, Dalton explained, using the geometric shapes, a theory
of macroscopic graviton behavior.  He said, "Now watch the model
over here, Jason.  Computer, run simulation program MOVE-IT."  A
white arrow appeared out of nowhere pointing at the sailship
which began moving toward the nearby gravitonic current.  Just
before the little sailship entered the current, its billowing
sails all tightened up, and tilted at radical angles, diagonal to
the direction of the current.  As the sails edged into the
gravitonic current, part of the blue flowing gravitons within the
current were deflected off the sails at right angles to the main
current, spraying the colony ship which began slowly moving
sideways out of the gravitonic current!

    Jason asked breathlessly, "Computer, is the plan MOVE-IT
feasible in normal reality?"

    "Yes," replied the computer.

    "MOVE-IT IS the feasibility plan, Jason," Dalton explained
excitedly.  "I put it together with the computer's help."

    "YOU put this plan together?!"  Jason asked incredulously,
his envy of Dalton's skill quickly replaced by pride in his young

    "Yeah!  It's easy with V-R!  You should get into this
stuff."  He grinned at Jason inside the V-R, and teased, "What's
the matter?  Getting too old??  Been forgetting to take the

    "All right, all right.  I just prefer real reality, that's
all...  Listen, this plan of yours gives me an idea for solving
one other big problem."

    "What other problem?"

    "Even after we nudge them out of the gravitonic current,
they'll still be flying along at near light speed.  We can't dock
with a ship moving that fast with that much momentum, because WE
have NO momentum.  The moment we shut down the gravitonic
generator to dock, we'll come to a dead stop while the colony
ship flies away -- from near light speed to no speed at all, with
no deceleration because we have no momentum.  The sails do that
trick of field-probability that lets a sailship get from point
'A' to point 'B' without any change in momentum.

    Jason continued thinking out loud.  "And, we can't dock with
the sails energized.  Who knows what would happen then?  The
colony ship is all distorted and slowed down and more massive
because of its relativistic speed..."  ( When an object
accelerates up very close to the speed of light, it attains what
are called RELATIVISTIC SPEEDS.  At these speeds, the relations
between the speeding object and the objects at rest, that it left
behind, become somewhat strained.  Consider a spaceship leaving a
sleepy little planet, taking a big bite out of its moon to be
used as fuel, and then accelerating up to say 99.99% the speed of
light.  Relative to an observer back on the home planet,
pleasantly at rest, the wayward spaceship would be squished down
along the axis of its direction of travel.  That is, if the
spaceship was shaped like a sphere when it took off, it would now
be shaped like a bulging pancake, with the flat side in the
direction of travel.  However, relative to the folks on-board,
everything would look nice and normal.  One more difference.
Time on-board would slow down compared to time back home.  The
classic example involves two twins about 24-years-old, one on-
board and one left at home.  The one on board is all slowed down.
When the ship finally comes home, the twin at home is 80-years-
old.  The twin who was slowed down while the ship was near light
speed, is only 25-year-old, and can now whip his brother at
tennis again and again. )  Back on Earth, at the Riyad space
port, Jason had once been told that these theories were first
propounded long ago in the ancient times by the Arab genius
Einstein al-Bert.

    He continued:  "To us they'd barely be moving, and would
weigh a million kilograms.  To them, we'd be just a blur.

    "The whirlpool gave the colony ship far more momentum than
their ion-engines can counteract.  And, in the wrong direction,
too.  It would probably take several life-times for them to slow
down, if they even have enough fuel!

    "We have to slow that ship down, and I think if we pull the
same maneuver on the other side of the current, after drifting
out, we can slow them down..."

    He went into further details, and Dalton agreed they made
sense.  Then they began working on a second feasibility model,
called SLOW-IT.  When they ran this model in the virtual-reality,
Jason reluctantly again wearing the V-R helmet, they saw the
image of the colony ship now outside of the current, though still
within the weak side winds.  Their sailship backed out of the
current, from where it had been blowing at the colony ship,
cruised all the way around to the other side of the tubular-
shaped current near the colony ship, then edged over to the
gravitonic current as before.  This time, however, only a few of
its sails, twisted around at a reversed angle, were dipped into
the current.  Gravitons deflected by the sails now blew out of
the current, and over to the colony ship.  These gravitons were
colored green, because the sails deflecting them had been charged
in a unique way to give the deflected gravitons a very special
property turning them into "breeder-gravitons". When these
special breeder-gravitons hit the colony ship, sucking up its
kinetic energy, they split into multiple blue-colored regular
gravitons spraying off in all directions.  With its kinetic
energy rapidly sucked away, the V-R image of the colony ship
began to slow.  The SLOW-IT program automatically also began to
slow Jason's sailship.  In this way, Jason and Dalton could slow
the colony ship down to a stop, then dock with safety!

    They began setting up the programs in the computer to
initiate the maneuvers to first blow the colony ship out of the
gravitonic current by deflecting gravitons with their ship's
sails, and then slow it down to a stop by spraying it with the
paralyzing breeder-gravitons.

    After several days of preparation and especially rigorous
testing of the MOVE-IT and SLOW-IT programs, they initiated the
procedure.  The sailship edged over to the gravitonic current,
and dipped in about halfway with the gravitonic sails tightened
and tilted at the required angle.  The computer reported the
sails responding as predicted.  They watched the gravitonic radar
screen intently.  Slowly, as predicted, the colony ship began to
move away from them, toward the opposite side of the mighty
gravitonic current!

    The computer calculated that at the colony ship's rate of
sideways movement, it would be safely free of the current in
about 20 hours.  Dalton and Jason took turns monitoring the
operation from the pilot room.  Jason now fully trusted Dalton's
competence.  How had he ever done without a partner before?

    The next day, late in the morning, the operation was
complete.  The colony ship was out of the current!  They pulled
their sailship back out of the current, then sailed around the
outer edge, tacking through the side winds, until they were on
the other side, fixing their position between the colony ship, as
tracked by the radar, and the main current.  Then they initiated
the tricky maneuver to generate breeder-gravitons.  Their ship
edged over, and dipped only a few sails into the huge flow of the
main gravitonic current.  The view screens monitoring the
activity of the maneuvering sails went wild with streams of data
scrolling rapidly past as the computer rapidly made hundreds of
course corrections per second to accomplish three simultaneous
purposes:  One, keep the sails generating the breeder-gravitons
at just the right angle.  Two, accurately keep the spray aimed at
the colony ship.  Three, slow the sailship down as the colony
ship slowed.  And, it slowed rapidly!

    Each single breeder-graviton sucked up enough kinetic energy
to split into millions of regular gravitons.  Fortunately, this
miniature storm of gravitons all shot forward in the direction
the colony ship was moving, not affecting Jason's sailship at

    But, as rapidly as the colony ship was slowing, the computer
forecasted it would take several days before it would come to a
stop.  And so they again took turns manning the pilot room,
monitoring the progress of their rescue operation.

    On the fifth day both Dalton and Jason were weary from the
tense operation.  Jason had a scraggly beard from not shaving,
and Dalton's eyes seemed to be stuck in a permanent screen-
watching stare.  But, late in the afternoon, Dalton noticed the
speed indicator of the colony ship changing faster.  It finally
dropped below 90% the speed of light, and seemed to be changing
faster.  Dalton excitedly called Jason down in the living
quarter.  Jason woke up, and scrambled out of bed already fully
dressed.  He had fallen into bed early, too tired to disrobe.  He
scrambled up the ladder into the pilot room.  Dalton pointed to
the speed indicator.  They watched intently.  Jason ordered one
of the robots to bring coffee.  They sipped their coffee and
watched.  After about 15 minutes the speed was down to 80%.  This
was amazing!  Most of an objects momentum traveling close to
light speed in only the top few percentage points.  All of that
had been bled off over that last few days.  In even less time the
speed had dropped to 70%!  Only four minutes later it was down to
60%.  The gravitonic generator was now noticeably winding down as
the computer automatically matched speeds with the slowing colony

    A couple minutes later 50%.  One minute later 40%.  Jason
and Dalton grinned at each other.  Jason wagged his eyebrows up
and down, and Dalton laughed.  30%!  Fifteen seconds later 20%!
And just a few seconds later 10%, and then rapidly 9%, 8%, 7%,
then just a blur, and finally a blinking 0%.  They had brought
the colony ship to a stop!

    The computer reported "Procedure SLOW-IT successfully


    Jason and Dalton were out of their seats jumping up and
down, hugging each other, and shouting with joy.  They had
rescued the colony ship from the gravitonic current, and purged
it of its runaway momentum!  They were ecstatic.  This intense
feeling of triumph was the reason Jason was obsessed with rescue.
It was so difficult and challenging, but felt incredible when
achieved.  For Dalton, this was the most significant achievement
of his life so far.  He felt so important, so alive!  How
wonderful the universe was!  Jason was just about to go down to
the cargo hold in search of a bottle of sparkling wine to
celebrate, when the computer interrupted them with a surprising

    "A distress message is now being received from the colony
ship.  See view-screen-three for contents."

    They whirled around and went over to look at view-screen.
It read:


         CONOVER, RIGEL.





    And the message continued on, detailing the location of the
colony ship and its home world.

    Dalton looked at Jason, grabbing his arm, "Hey, Conover is
the world I'm from!  That's where my father signed on with Katz
when I was just a baby!"

    Jason looked at him in amazement.  "Are you sure?"

    Dalton assured him, stressing each word, "I know that's the
name of the world where I'm from!"

    Various implications occurred to Jason.  "You AND the colony
ship are both from Conover?!"  He tilted his head to the side,
his eyes widening, and he said slowly, "So, while searching for
your mother, YOU must have encountered the SAME whirlpool as the
colony ship!  Incredible!  Where is your mother anyway?  Katz
couldn't have searched for her if he didn't know where she went!"

    "Father never said!"

    Jason looked over at the image of the colony ship on the
radar screen, then back at Dalton.  "Let's see, the colony ship
left exactly...  98 years ago.  Katz returned to Infinity City
five, no six years ago, after being away 93 years.  So he must
have been on Infinity City the first time 99 years ago.  Some
time after that he stopped at Conover and picked up you and your
father.  And then years later began looking for your mother, and
hit the whirlpool.  How old were you when he began looking for
your mother?"

    "About nine or ten."

    "The colony ship's voyage was supposed to have taken just
over ten years.  Maybe your MOTHER was on... I mean IS ON the
colony ship, and Katz had just followed the path it should have
been on, and hit the same whirlpool.  This is incredible!
Dalton, your mother may be on that ship!"

    Dalton's face clouded over, and he looked away.

    "What's the matter, kid?  I thought you'd be excited.
You're finally going to meet your mother, if she's there!"

    Dalton looked back at him, and said bitterly, "She can't be
on that or any ship.  She must be dead back on Conover!  She
wouldn't have taken off on a ship and left me behind.  Nobody's
mother does that.  She must be dead.  Just like my father.  Both
my parents are dead!"  He buried his head in his arms, then

looked up angrily at Jason with tears in his eyes.  He stormed
over to the hatch in the pilot room floor, kicked the control
button, and dropped through, stumbling down the ladder.  Jason
heard the living quarter door open, and slam loudly closed.

    POOR KID, he thought.  Jason began to feel guilty for
speculating about Dalton's mother without first thinking about
how Dalton would react.  Katz seemed to have followed the path of
the colony ship because she was on it!  But why HAD she abandoned
Dalton as a baby?  No one abandoned children in Infinity City.
What an abhorrent idea!  No, it was a ridiculous notion that his
mother had been on the colony ship.  Jason dismissed the entire

    Jason felt Dalton probably needed to be alone for a while to
sort things out.  This was an awful lot for a sixteen year old
boy to handle.  Jason decided to contact the colony ship in the

    He grew excited and rubbed his hands together.  This was
always a thrill, letting despairing space travelers know that
help had finally arrived.  "Computer, record the following
message."  And from the keypad of the pilot seat he typed...


         END OF MESSAGE.

    He spell-checked the message, wishing to appear as official
as possible so they would not think he was a pirate.  Then, he
instructed the computer to send it.  A reply was received
immediately!  It read...


    But, that was it!

    Jason frowned.  They were not very excited.  He sent


    The reply was once again immediate:


    "Computer, switch to audio link."  There was no one there to
impress with impressively official written communication.
However, Jason wanted to talk with humans, if there were any!
"PF24," he addressed the colony ship's computer.  "How many crew
and colonists are alive?"

    The response: "613 colonists and 0 crew members alive."

    WHAT?!  "PF24, how many original colonists and crew members
were there when the HEAVEN left Conover?"

    "925 colonists, and 23 crew members."

    "PF24, detail crew member cause of deaths."

    "All deaths caused by fatal injuries."

    Jason asked, "PF24, what caused the fatal injuries?"

    "Affect external to HEAVEN."

    "PF24, what was the affect?  Describe it."

    "Cannot label the affect in question.  Description follows:
The Heaven encountered random accelerations beyond the tolerance
of its superstructure."

    Jason inquired further:  "When did this occur?"

    The HEAVEN'S computer responded, "Ship time: 7.21 Earth-
standard years ago.  Galactic time: 90 years ago."

    So, the crew had been killed in a serious accident!  The
whirlpool, of course.  But, there were 613 surviving colonists.
He needed to talk to one of them.  He typed out another message:
"PF24, is there a leader of the surviving colonists?"


    Jason was growing irritated at this computer's lack of
intuition.  It should have responded with a name!  Must be an
exclusively digital model, Jason surmised.  "Well, who IS the

    "A human named Excarver Durdaine."

    "Do you have communication equipment to let him communicate
with me directly?"


    "Tell Excarver Durdaine to go to this communication
equipment, and talk to the captain of the ship that has come to
your rescue."

    "Instructions now in progress.  Summoning Excarver Durdaine
to the communication room."

    "Tell me when he gets to the communication room."


    Jason addressed his own computer verbally.  "Computer, tell
me when we receive the next message."

    He suddenly realized he must look terrible, and not like a
captain of an official rescue ship at all.  Looking the way he
did now, he looked like a pirate!  He had learned that pirates
were the chief worry of anyone stranded in space, because pirates
left no WITNESSES.  "Computer, priority one, get a robot up here
as fast as possible with my dress uniform, a hair-brush, and a
shaver!"  The computer acknowledged, and the hatch in the pilot
room floor slid open immediately in anticipation of the little
robot.  In less than one minute Jason heard the elevator
activating.  A few moments later the blue robot popped up into
the pilot room.

    Jason grabbed the ultra-sonic laser shaver and made short
work of his mangy stubble.  Next, he took the hair-brush and
started tugging at his hair, which he had again negligently
allowed to get too long.  He periodically pressed a button on the
brush which sprayed a polymer steam into his hair, instantly
flattering even the most stubborn tangles.

    He removed his coverall, and tossed it down through the
hatchway in the floor.  "Hey!", he heard Dalton, upon whom the
coverall had landed, shout from below.  Jason pulled on his
formal Militia Guard dress coverall, and was just buttoning up
the jacket when Dalton appeared in the hatchway.  Jason climbed
back into the pilot room.  Dalton looked down and said
sheepishly, "I'm sorry for getting angry, Jason.  That wasn't how
someone in our business should act."

    Jason smiled at him, and tousled Dalton's hair.  "That's
okay, kid.  I've thought about how you must feel."  He extended
his hand, and saying brightly, "Partners-in-rescue, right?"

    Dalton looked up, grinned, grabbed his hand, and vigorously
shook it up and down.  "Yeah!  Partners-in-rescue!"  Then he
looked quizzical, "Hey, what's going on?  The robot came blasting
out of its cabinet, and almost knocked me over.  I didn't know it
could move that fast.  I followed it up here."

    "We've made contact, kid!", Jason answered excitedly.  "I've
been talking to their computer, and I'm waiting for their leader

    "Computer," Jason instructed, "when the leader of the colony
ship establishes communication, if its visual send back an image
of our pilot room and my image but make me look and sound exactly
like John One of the Larsch.  And filter out Dalton.  Oh, and
animate a cap on my head matching my uniform."  He wanted those
on board the colony ship to think there was more than a single
officer on-board the sailship.  He loved to impersonate his good
friend John One who looked much more like an officer than Jason,
who clean-shaven though he was, always seemed more like a pirate.
He hoped mischievously that someday someone who had seen the
impersonation would meet John, and confuse the hell out of him.

    Dalton looked over Jason's uniform.  "What happened to your

    "Uh, I lost it."  It had been accidentally left back on
Infinity City at a certain young lady's apartment whom Jason had
not thought prudent to call on again.

    They waited excitedly to hear from the leader of the colony


    "Message from PF24," the sailship's computer suddenly

    Jason read the message...


    He instructed his own computer, "Put him on view-screen one,
and use it as his point of view.  Establish contact."

    Now he heard the VOICE of PF24.  "PF24 to Rescue-Three:
Communication successfully establish.  Excarver Durdaine standing
by.  Awaiting your command to activate audio/visual link."  PF24
had a strange accent.  But one that Jason was all too familiar
with.  It had the same accent as Dalton!  Jason looked over at
him.  He was just looking expectantly at view-screen one,
apparently not having noticed the accent of PF24.  "PF24,
proceed," ordered Jason.  And, the view-screen came to life with
the image of Excarver Durdaine.

    He was aging badly!  His bushy black hair was graying all
around.  He had deep wrinkles especially around is gray eyes,
deeply set below huge bushy black graying eyebrows.  He had a
moustache, and a distinguished looking goatee, streaked with more
gray.  He was hunched slightly, and wore a pale white robe of
office, trimmed in gold lame'.  He leaned forward peering
intently at the image of officer John One, synthesized by Jason's
computer, and spoke slowly with a slight trace of suspicion,
"This is Excarver Durdaine.  Our ship is the HEAVEN, from
CONOVER, RIGEL.  Who are you?"

    Jason liked to act as official as he could at this kind of
moment.  With a matter-of-fact voice he replied, "This is Captain
John One of the Infinity City Militia Guard, commanding the
sailship Rescue-Three."   He was telling the truth, sort of.  He
WAS still an officer of the Guard, though now in the inactive
reserves, and the image Durdaine saw was really that of John One.
He had not actually claimed that Rescue-Three was a Guard ship,
which would have been illegal.  But he knew Durdaine would assume
this was the case.  He continued, "We have received your distress
message, and are here to lend assistance."  Durdaine would hear
the voice of John One.

    Durdaine smiled weakly, and shook his head a little.  "It is
hard to believe someone has finally come.  And, another ship from
Infinity City.  It has been so long.  We've been in space 15
years.  There was a terrible accident on our way to our
destination.  All the crew killed!  Hundreds of us colonists, as
well!  My God, we had almost given up hope.  Will you send a
message to our home world, asking them to help us?"

    "We can do that.  But, we are completely equipped for
repairs in space, and would like to offer our assistance.  We

would like permission to send over mission specialist Jason, and
an assistant to survey the cause of your distress, and propose
corrective measures."

    "You can repair us yourselves?!"  But, he nodded.  "Of
course, of course.  You are from Infinity City.  We are
fortunate, indeed.  Yes, I gladly grant permission, on behalf of
our ruling council, for you to come aboard.  But, we know nothing
about how to perform any kind of docking with you.  We have no
crew.  Thank God the life-support systems are all automatic.
Actually, some of them have malfunctioned.  Maybe you could take
a look at those, too."

    "We'll see what we can do."  And, now Jason got to the best
part of his performance:  "Before we proceed we must know
officially if this is an errand of mercy or are you affiliated
with an agency on your home world that the Militia Guard can
invoice for its services?"

    Durdaine looked surprised, but responded having been taken
in by Jason's ruse, "Oh, well, to us this is certainly an errand
of mercy.  But I'm sure I understand.  Your service must cost
Infinity City a great deal.  Our mission was commissioned by our
federal government, itself!  It is a very important colonization.
Our home planet is now full of people, and we don't want to over-
populate.  That is why we have purchased our destination world.
We are the first colonists.  We have been sent to set up the
initial colony.  It is a brand new, unpopulated world, with prime

    Durdaine nodded, "Yes, I'm sure our government will
gratefully pay any reasonable fee.  You do not require
authorization from them first, do you?"

    "That is not required of any government sanctioned mission,"
Jason, in the guise of John One, assured him.  Durdaine looked
relieved.  Jason smiled at him, "We want to get you going again
as soon as we can.  Now, for the record, I must ask the address
of the agency back on your home world that will receive our
invoice.  Your commission identification would be most

    Durdaine responded with the information.  "I have always
heard that the people of Infinity City were financially astute,"
he commented.

    "Yes.  It costs money to live in a black hole...  We will
coordinate docking and boarding with your PF24 computer, and keep
you personally updated with our progress, Your Excellency."

    Durdaine breathed a sign of relief, bowed, then smiled.
"Thank you!  Thank you!  We are so grateful!"

    "Our pleasure.  Colony ship HEAVEN, this is RESCUE-THREE,
Captain One commanding, terminating communication."  Jason
punched the end-of-communication button on the arm of the chair.
When the screen showing the thankful image of Excarver Durdaine
went blank, Jason leapt out of the pilot chair, and whooped for
joy.  "What a catch!  A government sanctioned mission!  And, he
didn't even ask our price!  Dalton, we're gonna be rich!  We'll
head for CONOVER right after this and collect."  He began
planning excitedly, "We'll bring a taped message from Durdaine,
official authorizations, personally signed."

    "Jason!", Dalton cried.  "Aren't you forgetting something?"

    Jason looked at him, "What?"

    "The colony ship still has to be fixed first."

    Jason confidently waved a hand in the air, "No problem!"


    Before boarding the colony ship Jason wanted more details.
They used the side winds of the nearby gravitonic current to tack
over until they were only a few kilometers away from the colony
ship.  Then, they wound in all the tall gravitonic sails, except
for one left out to deflect just enough gravitons for maintaining
artificial gravity.  Jason used the propulsion jets to creep in
still closer.  He took it slow, wary as he was of the danger of
collision with the huge looming spaceship.

    Jason had the computer begin scanning the huge colony ship.
Dwarfing the sailship, it was cigar-shaped, dull dark gray in
color, and hundreds of meters in length.  The skin was
featureless except for three things: gigantic atmospheric
guidance fins at the tail end, sturdy enough for landing; large
dormant ion-engine bells protruding from the tail; and the damage
from the rendezvous with the gravitonic whirlpool, two long
ruptures both on the same side of the colony ship stretching
laterally around for almost a third of the ship's circumference.

    The ship was rotating slowly about the axis extending from
nose to tail, providing artificial gravity for the occupants.
Jason learned from the colony ship's computer PF24 that they
could board through an air lock located in the nose cone section.
He maneuvered the sailship in closer to a point just beyond the
nose of the immense ship.  He felt like a fish about to enter the
mouth of a gigantic whale.

    The colony ship's computer obeyed his every request.  He
learned that without a crew, after a preprogrammed amount of time
the colony ship's computer had switched to emergency mode,
shutting down the engines, and allowing any reasonable entity to
control it.  It had preprogrammed 'instincts', of course,
preventing it from executing any command that would endanger its
passengers.  But it did anything else that Jason or even Dalton

    Jason asked about the ruptures.  He learned that the colony
ship had manual repair facilities, but with the crew gone there
was no one who knew how to operate the repair equipment or the
spacesuits necessary for entering the vacuum within the ruptured
areas of the ship now open to space.

    Jason had the tools and materials to repair the ruptures
himself.  This he decided to do, and sent out one of his robots
to jet around the ruptures, scanning them closely so that later
his computer could have the robots prepare the special sealing
material he carried with him to the exact dimensions required to
seal the holes.  Jason and Dalton later would take rolls of the
thin but extremely strong material out to the ruptures to repair
them.  Then, inside the colony ship, they would repair whatever
damage was below the ruptured sections.

    But first, it was time to meet the colonists!  Jason and
Dalton went to the cargo hold, and put on spacesuits.  They
opened the inner hatch to the air lock, went in, closed it, and
started the outer hatch cycle.  After all the air was pumped out

of the lock, the outer hatch slowly swung out and open, revealing
the flat blackness of outer space, brightly burning tiny stars,
and, of course, the immense colony ship hanging above, as if
about to fall on them.

    They were about 100 meters away from the tip of the colony
ship.  It was so big at this distance that its vast size blocked
their view of its tail fins at the far end, and the ship
appeared, in the dim starlight, as a huge dark gray disk.  At the
tip of the ship, the nose cone had opened into four sections,
like the petals of a large, iron gray flower.  Inside, the disk-
shaped, opened air lock ominously stared at them like the black
pupil of an eye.

    Jason spoke to the sailship's computer through the
microphone in his helmet's radio.  "Computer, add Dalton to this
channel, and scramble all our communications."  He did not want
anyone aboard the colony ship to be aware of his assessments and
impressions which, for disabled spacecraft, tended to be rather

    The computer responded, "Acknowledged."

    "Dalton?  Hear me okay?"

    "Yes, sir!"

    "Ready to ride over?"

    "Yes, sir!"

    "Comb your hair and brush your teeth?"

    Dalton laughed.  He was so excited.  Life since he had met
Jason had been one non-stop adventure.  But, for an adventurous
boy of 16, this was the best of all possible worlds.

    Jason opened the storage cabinet containing the spacebikes,
handed one to Dalton, and clamped himself onto the other.  He
checked everything out with the computer, then ordered it to
automatically pilot the 'bikes over into the air lock of the
colony ship.  With computer controlled piloting, Jason could
order the fastest possible retreat, should they encounter a
threat.  The computer temporarily disabled the sailship's
artificial gravity so their 'bikes could float free.  They
cruised out and away.

    Soon they felt the sailship's gravity diminish, and they
became weightless, fortunately a feeling Dalton had gotten used
to during their extra-vehicular excursions and free-ball games on
the voyage out to the whirlpool.

    As they drifted silently away from the safety of their
sailship, the cylindrical air lock of the colony ship yawned
before them.  It was too dark in the star-light.  It grew larger
and larger as they approached.  Dalton reckoned it to be at least
50 meters in diameter.  He gulped as he experienced a sensation
of being swallowed by the air lock.  The hair on the back of his
neck began to stand up.

    Just as they were about to enter the huge black air lock
before them, Jason asked through his helmet radio, "PF24, does
the colony ship air lock have any lighting?"

    The sailship's computer automatically relayed the message.
PF24 responded, "Yes."

    "Turn it on," Jason ordered.  A lighting strip all around
the lip of the air lock began to glow white, slowly rising in
intensity.  They could now see inside the air lock as their
'bikes carried them inside.  Row upon row of storage chambers
recessed into the curving walls of the air lock, all with
transparent covers.  One entire row of storage chambers was full
of utility robots!  Jason asked, "PF24, what are all these robots
for in the air lock?"

    "Repair of HEAVEN."  Amazing!

    "Why haven't the ruptures in the side of HEAVEN been

    "No program initiated."

    "Do you have a general program on file that can be used to
manage the repair of the ruptures?"

    "Checking...  Yes."

    "Why hasn't anyone run it?"

    "Unknown."  Puzzling!

    At the back end of the air lock, near the central axis of
the colony ship, were several smaller man-sized air-locks.  Jason
had studied the air lock aboard his sailship, and already knew
about them.  His computer had PF24 swing one open for them, and
turn on the inner lights revealing a box-shaped chamber.  They
drifted inside.  While waiting for the outer hatch to close and
the air to pump in, they found themselves slowly drifting to the
floor.  This was due to the artificial gravity caused by the
rotation of the colony ship along its axis.

    Finally, when the air pressure was equal to that of the
inside of the colony ship, the inner hatch puffed open.  There,
waiting for them in a dimly lit corridor not much bigger than the
little air lock, was Excarver Durdaine in the same white robe,
flanked by two younger men wearing blue coverall uniforms, and
serious expressions.  Behind them, the dark walls, ceiling, and
floor of the corridor extended as far as they could see.

    Jason and Dalton took off their helmets.  Jason said with a
business-like manner, "Hello.  I'm rescue mission specialist
Jason Jason.  This is my assistant, intern Dalton.  Are you Mr.

    Excarver Durdaine looked Jason and Dalton over.  Jason's
blue-eyed austere but smiling face, and tall, impressive uniform-
clad physique convinced Durdaine this was indeed an officer of
Infinity City's Guard.  The thin innocent-looking black-haired
boy accompanying him looked harmless enough.  "Yes, I am," he
replied, smiling.  They all shook hands.

    Jason and Dalton removed their spacesuits slowly in the
reduced gravity.  Jason had worn his "mission specialist"
costume.  Dalton had on simply workman's clothing, comfortable
white cotton shirt, light brown trousers, and sneakers, all
manufactured right on-board the sailship in one of the workshops.

    Durdaine spread his hands in genuine welcome.  "Gentlemen,
thank you for finding us!  You are most welcome."  He patted a

wall nearby.  "It is evening now on the ship.  Before we get down
to the business of repair, won't you please come enjoy dinner
with us?  It has been 15 years since we've seen new faces; adult
faces, that is.  Many children have been born along the way,

    Jason shrugged, looked over at his "intern mission
specialist", and asked, "Hungry, Dalton?"

    "Sure!", came the typically youthful reply.

    Jason said with an official tone in his voice, "It is within
regulations for us to accept tokens of hospitality."  He smiled,
knowing from previous experience what was to come.  They would
meet more colonists, and be treated either with extreme suspicion
or as saviors.  "We heartily accept!  Can't fix anything on an
empty stomach."  Jason had a hunch they would be treated well

    "No you certainly can't!", agreed Durdaine.  "Um, are you
the leader of your sailship?"

    Jason lied confidently, "No, sir.  Captain One is our top
ranking officer.  I'm second in command."

    Durdaine politely inquired, "Shall we also invite your
Captain over?  Your entire crew is most welcome!"

    Jason shrugged apologetically, "That is a very kind and
gracious offer, and I am sure the Captain and the others would
very much enjoy the hospitality of your ship, however Militia
Guard regulations forbid more than two men entering a non-
Infinity City spacecraft for any given rescue mission.
Quarantine reasons.  Dalton here and I will have to stay in our
sailship's quarantine chamber each time we return until the end
of this rescue mission.  Actually, we'll have to stay in the
chamber for a few weeks more after that to make sure we haven't
picked up any strange microbes.  It's all regulations."

    Durdaine nodded and sighed, "Yes, we too have our
regulations to abide by.  Still, we would have gratefully
welcomed as many new faces as possible."  He gestured to his
assistants who were unfolding two pairs of slippers from their
utility pockets.  "Here's something to make walking easier..."
Durdaine explained, "These will make your feet stick to the floor
up here in the low-grav sections until we get down to the parts
of the ship with higher gravity."  Jason and Dalton put on the
slippers, and followed Durdaine and his assistants as they
shuffled along down the corridor.  The corridor, they were told,
was a tunnelway that ran the complete length of the ship along
its axis, and was commonly referred to as the 'axis tunnelway.'
The extremely low gravity required small rapid strides.  Jason
and Dalton followed the example of the three before them.

    As they proceeded, Durdaine spoke over his shoulder.  "I
must apologize.  Those handles you see here and there on the
walls normally slide back and forth, and will pull you anywhere
you want to go at a rapid rate.  But, they have not worked since
the ACCIDENT."  He emphasized this word.  "We've got a long walk
ahead of us."

    They all moved silently for a while.  Jason commented, "This
certainly is a large ship.  You have more than enough room for
many more children."

    "Oh, yes," replied Durdaine.  "This ship is barely
populated.  It's a prototype, actually designed to hold thousands
and thousands!  Once this mission is successful, we will build a
whole fleet of these ships to move extra people to the new world,
and keep the population of the old world under control.  Well,
the mission is only five years overdue.  I think that will be
allowed considering all that was invested in this prototype."

    Dalton and Jason looked at each other significantly.  The
colonists did not know that they had been slowed down, and had
been gone not five but almost 100 years!  Jason motioned Dalton
to keep silent about it.  They did not need to know this just
yet.  People that had been stranded in space were usually pretty
jumpy to begin with.  Everyone they had known and left behind had
probably all died by now, from aging.  Best just to keep this a
secret until they had repaired the colony ship, and were safely
back aboard their own ship.

    Jason thought to himself as they walked on and on, maybe the
colonists would want to turn around and go back to their home
world.  But, wait!  They were over 80 light-years away from the
whirlpool, and about the same distance away from the target world
to be colonized.  They were even farther than that from their
home world.  Even with everything repaired and running again, the
colony ship's primitive sub-light-speed propulsion system, no one
on-board would ever live long enough to see either world!  Only
their descendants.  And, how would the ship run without a crew to
repair anything that went wrong?  Jason could hire out large
passenger sailships from Infinity City, but who would pay the
enormous cost of transporting all these colonists back to their
home world?  He decided to just repair the colony ship first,
then break the news to the colonists later.

    Jason had been listening with only half an ear to Durdaine
complaining about everything that had been breaking down since
they had lost the crew.  He interrupted Durdaine with a question,
"Do you have a recycling food supply?"  They would need that.

    Durdaine turned and smiled proudly, "Oh, yes!  We would have
starved by now without the recycling system for air, water, and
food.  Each of the three colonist segments has its own recycling
system, completely independent of the ship.  They even have
automatic little maintenance robots that keep it all running.  We
have seen the robots even repairing themselves.  The recycling
systems are about the ONLY systems we do not have serious trouble

100, MAYBE 200 YEARS.  Let's see.  The ship was on a ten year
mission to another world around a nearby star to their home
world.  If it would take them 10 years to go that short distance,
then to go over 80 light-years would take...  Not 100, not 200,
it would take 500 TO 1,000 YEARS!

    That was too much.  The colony ship was probably not
designed to last that long.  He would have to sail to the
colonist's home world, and let the authorities know the
situation.  It would require a fleet of sailships to bring all
these colonists back.  Jason would gladly offer to do the job,
for the right price.  WHAT A PRICE THAT WOULD BE!...

    He had noticed signs on the wall designating whatever
current segment they were in.  They had passed Cargo Segment #1,
and Cargo Segment #2, and were now passing through Colonist
Segment #1.  Durdaine explained that the ship was a stack of
seven disk-shaped segments:  Cargo Segments #1 & #2 just past the

nose cone, Colonist Segments #1, #2, & #3, the Control & Crew
Segment containing the main control room & crew quarters, and
finally the Power & Propulsion segment at the tail.  The two
segments damaged by rupture were Colonist Segment #2, and the
Control & Crew Segment.  Durdaine explained that when Colonist
Segment #2 ruptured, the air and contents (including people) of
many of its chambers had been horribly sucked out into space.
The rest of the chambers had automatically sealed closed.  After
the catastrophe, many of the survivors had gone berserk.
Colonist Segment #2 was now reduced to a state of hopeless
barbarism.  Nobody dared enter.  The hatch was guarded by
Durdaine's men from Colonist Segment #1.

    Finally, they came to the first entrance hatch to Colonist
Section #1 housing the colonial administrators, scientists, and
those of other learned professions.  Colonists Segments #2 and #3
held those that would make up the labor force on the new world.
The people of Segment #1 were originally chartered to manage
everyone aboard the ship and eventually become the governing body
on the new world.  But after the catastrophe, those in Colonist
Segment #3 had chosen their own local leadership, and those in
Colonist Segment #2 refused to obey anyone.

    Durdaine gave a special knock, and a short time later, a
suspicious face appeared in the transparent view port.  The face
looked cautiously to both sides, glared at Jason and Dalton,
nodded at Durdaine, then reluctantly pulled away.  The hatch
swung open.  Durdaine mumbled apologetically, "Have to maintain
security, you know."  They all entered a cube-shaped chamber,
just barely big enough for their party, dimly lit from lighting
strips embedded in the room's corners.  Only five of the original
eight still produced significant light.  The walls of the chamber
had been painted in pastel colors with gay scenes from the home
world Conover.  These exotic scenes fascinated Dalton, for
Conover was technically his home world, though he had left as an
infant, and had never even seen pictures of it.

    The man who had opened the door returned to a table where he
and the two other door-guards sat playing a video game built into
the table.  Three access tubeways left the chamber, two on either
side, and the third directly across from the hatch they had
entered, their white interiors all dimly lit by lighting panels
located at regular intervals, though not all were working.
Durdaine led the party into the third, and they all crawled up
the access ladder of the tubeway heading away from the center of
the colony ship.  Durdaine told them to be careful because
gravity would now begin to increase has they moved into the outer
part of the ship which swung faster about the axis.  He also
apologized for the non-working elevator pads they noticed
protruding from slots at the bottom of the tubeway.

    Gravity did increase.  They finally entered another
corridor, followed it, then entered and followed still another.
They went down more ladder chambers.  This pattern went on and
on.  Jason exerted his powers of concentration to form a map in
his mind.  He did not want to lose track of his location within
the great ship.  Durdaine slowed the pace as gravity increased.
He had not lost his breath yet.  MUST BE IN GOOD SHAPE, thought
Jason.  He and Dalton were doing fine.

    They began passing other people who stared at Jason and
Dalton suspiciously.  Finally, they were at a level with Earth-
normal gravity.  They walked along, and came to an ornate
doorway, framed in polished wood, with brass hinges and knobs.
Or, were they gold?  Two guards on either side wore complex

glittering ceremonial uniforms.  The guards opened the doors.
And, there, before them was the most stunning scene Jason had
ever seen.  And, for Dalton, something more...


    They stepped into a huge banquet hall, at least ten meters
high.  The ceiling was gilded with ornately carved woodwork and
beams.  Hanging down, and lighting the room were chandeliers made
of thousands of twinkling sparkling crystals.  The walls were
hung with rich tapestries displaying scenes from the home world,
in gorgeous colors.  An immense light-blue curtain with a lightly
colored rainbow clear across it, covered the back wall of the
banquet hall.  A thick pile carpet covered the entire floor of
many different pastel colors each blending smoothly into the
next:  soft cream darkening to brown, changing to a pale rust, to
pink, to lemon yellow, and back to cream, but only in one area.
The colors of the amazing carpet formed swirling, looping,
spiraling patterns.  There were several long dining tables, each
lavishly set with shining silvery utensils, and crystal
glassware.  Already seated around each tables were dozens of
finely dressed men and women, all in impressive formal robes.
The ladies wore white, and pink, and light blue.  The gentlemen
preferred somber darker colors, dark brown, midnight blue,
russet, and others.

    But to Dalton, there was only one person there.  At the near
end of the closest table, a young girl, at the heart-melting age
of first bloom, sat looking directly at him.  Such a pleasant
expression lit up her beautiful face, he thought.  Her hair was a
golden blonde, and flowed down just past her shoulders.  Her eyes
were large and dark, her mouth a splash of rose.  Her features
were all so delicate, as if she was one sort of magic creature.
She wore a low cut pink gown, with flowers attached at the
bodice.  This was the first girl that Dalton had seen since they
had left Infinity City a year ago.  He began feeling light-
headed.  He was not breathing.  He started breathing again.  He
had never felt this way before!  He heard someone clear his

    At the next table over, a footman was holding a chair for
him.  Jason was standing at the next table-setting, watching him
with a big grin on his face.  Dalton summoned his dignity, and
walked over to the proffered chair.  He could feel his face
burning.  Dalton looked around at all the finely dressed people.
Such distinctive colors.  Even Jason had on a uniform.  But all
Dalton had on was a simple white long sleeve shirt, and light-
brown trousers.  He felt like he was back on the streets of
Infinity City with all the fine people going by, not even seeing
him.  Jason murmured to him, "Don't sit down yet.  He's going to
introduce us.  This part is great!  And remember, play YOUR
part!"  He was so thankful Jason was there!

    Excarver Durdaine was at the head of the table.  He stood,
and sure enough introduced them as the great benefactors come to
solve all their problems.  It was quite a speech.  It almost
seemed to take on religious overtones!  Finally, it was over, and
they all sat down.  The footmen began serving.  Durdaine leaned
over toward Jason, on his right, and Dalton next to Jason.
"Gentlemen, let me introduce to you my lovely daughter, Ethera."
And, he gestured toward the young lady sitting at his left.  She
was much older than the girl Dalton was stealing glances at over
his shoulder.  But still, Jason shrewdly figured her for only 25

years of age.  And, here, that would be a natural 25, no PILL or
plastic surgery to disguise a wizened lady.  Jason smiled, and
set his sights on her.  He told her what a pleasure it was to
meet her.  She smiled with pleasure at the compliment.  She was
indeed very lovely, with light-brown hair coiffed up in a stylish
arrangement, hazel eyes dazzling like a handful of precious gems,
fine aristocratic features so enticing at her age.  She tilted
her head, and rested her cheek on a white-gloved hand.  She had a
wide, sensuous mouth, with perfectly even, bright white teeth.
Jason winked at her, then turned to her father who had just asked
a question.  Jason was amazed that this old, wrinkled craggy-
featured man was the father of such a ravishing creature.
Because the PILL prevented aging, the people of Infinity City
were used to parents and their offspring usually looking as alike
as if they were siblings -- even more so, since there was, on the
average, greater genetic similarity between a parent and its
offspring than between two siblings.

    "I was not aware the Infinity City Militia Guard was in the
business of rescue, Mr. Jason."

    "We have only been doing this officially for about 25
years."  He was actually describing only himself.  "Over the
centuries, our patrols began finding and repairing more and more
disabled spacecraft.  It became more efficient to set up a
specialized branch to deal with the problem.  We can't tie up all
our patrols rescuing people."

    "No, you certainly cannot," agreed Durdaine.  "And, how
fortunate for us that you came along.  But, you know, I DO
distinctly remember the Captain, peace be upon him, mentioning
just before the accident that we were nearing some black hole
that was a veritable nest of thieves and pirates.  He said
Infinity City patrolled the area.  Is it still dangerous?"

    "We keep the area near our NEIGHBORS safe enough."  BUT WHAT

    "Mr. Jason," inquired Ethera with a heavy-lidded look.  "Are
there many men on-board your ship, like yourself?"

    WHAT DID SHE MEAN?  DID SHE MEAN...  He pretended confusion,
"Like myself?  In what regard, dear lady?"

    "Well, I mean, your age."


    She continued, "All the men on board are either over 45 and
under 16.  There's no one my age."

    Durdaine explained, "My wife passed away shortly before the
voyage began, and there was no one to take care of Ethera.  She
was only 10 then.  I could not leave her behind," he said smiling
over at his precious daughter.  She gave him a quick token smile
in return, and then returned her gaze to Jason, with another
innocent tilt of her stately head.

    She complained lightly, with good humor, "Oh, the men here
are either bothersome and stodgy oldsters lamenting the past, or
young inexperienced boys."

    "Ethera...", Durdaine murmured.  Then to Jason, "Yes, it is
too bad there is no one of her age group.  But, to start the new
colony, only men and women with established credentials were
accepted.  The youngest that signed on was 30 years of age, and
is now, of course, 45.  We HAVE had an endless stream of births,
though.  But, the oldest is now only 15.  I am sure Ethera will
enjoy your stay here."  Then, he waved an admonishing finger at
his daughter.  "Now, Ethera, do not interfere with the young
man's work.  He will be fixing the ship, you know!"

    "I can hardly believe there's someone my own age here."  She
batted her beautiful eyes at Jason.  "And a man, as well."

    Jason decided he would not mind her company while he worked
here, AT ALL.  Maybe she would turn out to be the girl of his
dreams.  Ethera was certainly lovely enough.  It was a good thing
he looked more her age than his own, which just happened to be
45!  Of course, the PILL kept Jason perpetually young at heart.
Often to his own misfortune...

    Dinner went by pleasantly.  The colonists asked Jason and
Dalton about their work and Infinity City, but Jason and Dalton
gave short, vague answers, and kept the subject of conversation
in a matter-of-fact way on the colony ship, cleverly avoiding
having to fabricate any further connections with any non-existent
Militia Guard rescue service.

    After dinner, the curtain at the back of the banquet hall
slowly opened to reveal an adjoining garden patio where cordials
and after dinner sweets were being offered.  Dalton moved slowly
along with Jason, Excarver Durdaine, his daughter Ethera, and
others from their table.  He looked for the girl he had first
seen.  There she was!  Was she moving toward the garden, too?  He
lost sight of her again.  Dalton was not very tall, yet.

    The garden patio was amazing.  Though it was inside a
spaceship, it easily rivaled any beautiful garden Jason had ever
seen anywhere in the Galaxy, even back on Infinity City.  From
the banquet hall, they walked out into an open courtyard, with a
floor made of polished dark bricks.  A few medium sized trees
rose up from large planters with brick walls that came up to knee
level, brightly filled with flowers.  The trees were all of the
same variety with glossy dark green leaves.  Gentle spotlights
splashed soft but lively colors here and there.  Surrounding the
courtyard, were many large bushes, and benches, and more planters
with more flowers.  The scent of the blossoms was delightful.
Beyond the garden were still more trees, as if the garden verged
upon an entire forest.  Soft, sweet music rose out of nowhere
turning the area into a realm of magic.

    The murmur of conversation rose and fell.  Gay laughter was
often heard.  The ladies and gentlemen drifted about, their gowns
and robes giving them majestic stature.  Dalton discreetly looked
about, anxious to see that special girl.  Where was she?  He had
not seen her come out.  What if she was not out here?

    Jason offered Ethera a cherry-colored cordial in a tiny
crystal goblet with a deceivingly large reservoir at its bottom.
With aristocratic grace, she accepted the tiny glass with her
white-gloved hand.  As she sipped it, she looked Jason up and
down.  "Are you married?", she asked directly, a little half-
smile playing across her enchanting mouth.

    "Not yet," his standard reply to THAT question.  "I'm
looking for a very special kind of lady.  I assume you are
single, also??"

    "Why, yes, of course!  Everyone here is old enough to be my
father, or young enough to be, well, a baby-brother.  Now, you
haven't told me.  How many other young men, say under 30, are
aboard your marvelous sailship?"  She was gently swaying back and
forth in time to the nearby soft music, her gown also swaying,
her head delightfully tilted to the side, touching the little
crystal goblet still to her lips.

    Marveled Jason at her charm and beauty.  This girl is one in
a million!  He smiled.  "We have a small crew.  Only a few of us
under age 30."  He raised his eyebrows.  "I'm the only one who
happens to be single."

    She touched her tongue to the corner of her lips, looked him
up and down, then said, "Oh, I think you'll do, for now, at
least.  Unless a knight in shining armor happens by."

    Jason could only laugh in response.  This was going to be
one fun Adventure...

    Dalton looked down at the ground, completely dejected.  SHE
had not come out to the courtyard.  He took a deep breath and
sighed.  He had found himself sighing all night.  He felt so
stirred up.  He did not like the feeling.  He could not think
straight.  He moved out beyond the courtyard, to be alone with
his thoughts.  The brick flooring turned into a soft, well-
manicured lawn, with many tall bushes, some ornate benches, and
more brick wells.  Who was she?  Would he now ever see her again?
He and Jason would be working in the broken sections where he was
sure he would never see her.  They wouldn't bother with a big
dinner like this again.  He'd never see her anymore.  But, so
what?!  What did HE need with girls, anyway?  He was an
Adventurer now.  AND, a rescuer.  He basked in his new found
sense of self-worth.  There was work to do...  And suddenly,

    He froze in his tracks.  The sounds of the courtyard could
still be easily heard behind.  He had just walked around a tall
bush, and there she was with her back to him, standing at a tree-
well.  The little brick wall came up level with her narrow waist.
She was looking down at the flowers.  At least he THOUGHT it was
her.  He could not see her face.  But the girl he now spied had
the same flowing golden hair, and the same pink dress.  Oh, so
pink!  He had never seen such a beautiful color before in his

    Then, the girl started turning, and looked back at him over
her shoulder, with no surprise at all, as if she had known he was
there all along.  He looked at her.  He felt his heart begin
beating so hard he thought for sure she would see it bulging in
and out of his shirt, loose as it was.  But he could not look
away from those calm, dark mysterious eyes.

    Suddenly, he noticed she was smiling at him in just a warm
friendly way.  He smiled back without thinking.  Then, she slowly
turned her head back, and once more regarded the flowers of the
tree well.  Dalton thought for sure his pounding heart was going
to burst from his chest!

    Jason and Ethera had invented a merry game.  He would pick
out someone or another couple, then he would guess their
characteristics, including shortcomings, habits, and preferences.

Then Ethera would correct him, revealing all the secrets learned
over the years living in a sealed-off ship, everybody crowded
together.  It was not really crowded, she admitted, but everybody
always knew where you were, and there was never any place really
new to go to.

    Jason looked around, and spied a short, portly old man with
balding gray hair and a tremendous moustache dancing with a tall,
thin woman of about the same age.  She wore a light blue robe,
and her gray hair was coiffed up like a pile of disks.  Her robe
hung so straight due to her thinness, and she drifted about so
smoothly that Jason imagined she could have been just a
department store mannequin, bust only atop a long pole with
wheels at the bottom.  The old man, if he were wearing a uniform
would have looked like an old retired military officer.  He wore
a plain dark brown suit instead, with gold pinstriping.  Jason
guessed he was head of some shipboard military guard, and the
woman was his wife.

    Ethera looked at them and snickered into her hand.  No, she
informed Jason, the man was His Excellency Anson Dorfer, Director
of Biology, and Lady Aleda Reid, Director of Hydroponics.
Neither had ever married, though the amount of time they spent
together was causing a scandal.

    Jason looked around for someone else.  Where was that young
pretty girl Dalton was so interested in?  He'd like to know about
her background.  Maybe she had an older sister.  Oh, well...  He
saw a tall, gaunt man in a dark blue suit with a waste coat with
white ruffles.  Jason surmised he had been aging for quite a
while.  Actually, everyone around the garden had been aging for
significant amounts of time.  All except the few adolescent
youngsters because the human genome was not programmed to begin
aging until the mid-twenties.  What had he learned at the table?
All the adults were at least 45-years-old...

    This man's hair was tied back in a short pony tail which
made his long pointed nose even more prominent.  "Who is he?",
Jason asked.  "Some professor of physics or computer science?"

    "Far from it," Ethera reported dryly.  "That's His
Excellency Anthony Gorton, Manager of Logistics.  Father
complains that he is completely corrupt.  He meters out our
remaining precious supplies depending on what favors he receives
in return.  Father has tried to replace him but he has an...
Let's see, what does Father call it?  An 'entrenched supporting
network of cronies.'  As one might expect aboard a cooped up
spaceship, we have our share of political intrigue."

    "I'm sure you have."  Jason had never rescued a spacecraft
that did not.  He looked around and saw a very large middle-aged
woman talking excitedly to a group of ladies and gentlemen
patiently listening.  She wore a billowing yellow dress with
white ruffles at the corset.  An extremely large bright yellow
bow in her hair made her look to Jason like a child's doll.  He
thought she looked like she was trying to sell something.  Sales?
There couldn't be any here.  He gave up, and pointed her out to

    "That's Lady Abigail Conover, our Entertainment Director.
She is most probably trying to convince people to get involved in
some new program.  Lady Conover is a learned scholar of the
psychological sciences.  But she has not been very successful at
coming up with anything fun to do so far.  She is unsinkable,
though, a very energetic friendly type.  I enjoy when she comes

to visit.  They all come to visit Father.  Lady Conover is
actually a descendant of our original Henry Conover, and reminds
us of this all the time.  She's madly in love with Dr. David
Douglas over there."

    Jason looked in the direction she was pointing and saw a man
sitting on a bench encircling one of the flower wells.  He had a
drink in his hand, and was pleasantly watching everyone else.
Jason did a double-take.  The man's thick mop of hair was an
unusual light rust in color.  So was his neat goatee.  Was that
coloring natural?  Jason had been all over the Galaxy and had
never seen a human being with natural hair coloring that varied
from either yellow, brown, or black.  The darker colors were more
prevalent.  Both Jason's parents were dark-haired, Jason
obviously had received their recessive genes of lighter pigment.
Of course, on Infinity City you could easily though expensively
take a genetic treatment to alter your pigment to any available

    The man with the red hair was an interesting looking fellow,
and wore a dark gray suit with a fascinating bow tied in front of
his throat.  He was medium in build but must be very tall for,
while sitting, his legs extended out at a great distance.  The
man gave Jason a friendly nod and smiled.  Jason smiled and
nodded back.  "What's he do?", he asked Ethera.

    "He's Director of Planning, Engineering, and Construction on
the new world.  There's nothing for him to do on the ship,
though.  He spends his time studying on the computer and playing
his musical instruments.  He keeps to himself, though he often
goes to dinner at Abigail's apartment, but only if there are
other guests, well almost always."  She whispered behind her
white-gloved hand, "He's not Conovarian!  He was hired for his
expertise from a world called Great Scotia where many have red
hair like him.  Father says they make very adaptive scientists
and engineers.  I'm sure you've heard of this planet."

    "Oh, of course!"  Jason lied.  But he wanted Ethera to
regard him as a great Galactic traveler.  He looked around.
There were several women about the garden who, though aging, were
still such striking beauties that Jason was dying with curiosity
to meet them.  He used the questioning game with Ethera to learn
more about them.

    He learned a great deal about the colony ship that night.
Political intrigue was rife.  He had learned during his rescue
missions to avoid this at all costs.  During this mission, he
realized, he and Dalton would have to avoid the colonists as much
as possible to stay out of trouble.  All except maybe Ethera, he
lustily thought to himself.

    Ethera interrupted their questioning game to ask Jason if he
would take her aboard his sailship to meet the others of his
crew.  Jason was thinking more and more about taking her aboard
his ship, but not to meet the crew.

    She seemed to read the general trend in his thinking, but
rather than disengage, she tauntingly reached up and gently
stroked his firm, set jaw, which she found gave him such a
determined, even unstoppable look.  He was in perfect shape.  His
uniform complimented the contours of his well-toned muscles.
Here was a man who took pride in his masculinity.  She found her
cheeks warming.  How unladylike!  What would father think?  He
would of course, disapprove.  The thought of her father raising
and lowering those delightful old bushy eyebrows, as he always

did when he chastised her, made her suddenly giggle.  She raised
a gloved hand to cover her mouth.

    Jason was suddenly taken aback.  What was she laughing at?
Him?  His jaw?  He HAD shaved, hadn't he?  Yes, definitely.
Quick hair cut, cologne, manicure, mouthwash;  why he had even
trimmed his nose hairs!  He decided she was just being a girl.
Someday he would have them figured out.  Then look out, Galaxy!
They'd all be his!

    Dalton found himself walking over to the girl.  I CAN'T
He came up boldly behind her, though a little to the side so he
could see more of her.  He was taller than she!  By a head!  She
just stood there pretending not to notice him, looking down at
the flowers about the tree, pretty little pink roses, just
slightly richer in color than her soft, supple gown.  Dalton
breathed in the fragrance of the roses thinking it was HER
fragrance.  He was enraptured by just being near her.  NO WONDER
sighed.  He found himself saying, "My name is Dalton.  What's
yours?"  She softly said, "Monique."  He lifted his knee up so he
could set his foot on top of the low brick wall to her right.
Then, he rested his elbow on his knee, put his cheek on his hand,
and drifted out of time, just experiencing her being so close.
He could even see her chest rise and fall with her gentle
breathing, the delightful little flowers of her bodice the same
pink little roses as the ones before her in the well.  He wanted
to stay here like this with her forever and ever more!

    She raised her head, and looked to the right though not
quite at him, as if she had just heard his thoughts.  Then she
continued turning her head back just a little more, until she
could see him out of the corner of her eye.  He was so charming!
So young, but trying so hard to be mature.  She had been watching
him secretly all night.  He moved with grace and purpose, not
like an adolescent at all.  Like a cat on the prowl?  ( There
were cats aboard the colony ship.  Against all regulations and
precautions someone had smuggled one into Colonist Segment #3.
It had been a pregnant female.  Secretly, one by one, people of
high prestige had acquired cats in Colonist Segment #1.  A good
friend of Monique's had one. )

    Something told her that he would seek her out wherever she
would go.  This made her feel special, and she even felt a little
thrilled by it.  She decided to test her theory and move off to
see if he would follow.  She could not move to the right.  He had
captured that flank.  She would escape to the left.  What if
someday he captured both flanks, and made her surrender?

    She drifted softly off to the left, looking back as she
disappeared behind another tall bush.  There he was smiling after
her, his foot still up on the brick wall, his face still resting
on his hand.  Then, he disappeared as the bush came between them.
She thought to herself, HE'S TOO CRAFTY TO EVER LET ME SEE HIM
THAT.  HE'LL JUST ALWAYS BE MOVING IN.  She sighed.  She did a
little pirouette.  Then, looked around abashed, making sure no
one had seen her.  No one had.  Her feelings were safe, for now.
Until he moved in closer...


    Jason and Dalton set to work the next day planning their
repair of the huge colony ship.  What a splendid evening they had
both experienced, each making a delightful female acquaintance.
But now it was time for business.  Jason set Dalton to work
aboard the sailship formulating a plan for repairing the two
ruptures in the colony ship.  Jason himself would tour the colony
ship with Excarver Durdaine making a list of all items requiring

    Dalton climbed to the pilot room, pulled on the virtual-
reality helmet, and set to work.

    After a short time, though, he had an interesting idea along
other lines, and asked the computer, "Computer, does PF24 have an
image stored of a young girl named Monique?"

    "Yes," answered his computer.

    Dalton, now in virtual-reality, was surrounded by a dull
blue background with a miniature image of the colony ship
floating before him so he could study the ruptures to be
repaired.  He pointed away to the side.  "Display Monique over
there, life-sized."  A frozen image of Monique was suddenly
displayed.  She was naked.

    Dalton was mortified.  "No!  Erase it!"  The image vanished.
He thought an image of her last night would have been displayed.
"Why...  why didn't she have clothes on?", he asked.

    "The PF24 selected the image of Monique last scanned.  The
last scanned image was from her annual medical examination."

    Dalton now felt consumed with guilt.  Any other girl would
have been fun to see naked.  But, she was special.  Oh, what had
he done!  He should have asked what kind of image PF24 had
stored.  He took a deep breath, "Computer, I mean...  PF24, do
you have an image of Monique in a nice dress?"


    "From how long ago?"

    "One day ago."

    "When, specifically?"

    "Previous day, 16:50 through 22:16."  That was the evening
before!  It had a picture of her from the dinner!

    "Display Monique as of 20:00 last night."

    And, this time, there she was.  Dalton gasped!  She stood
before him like frozen beauty.  His heart melted.  From where he
sat in the sailship's pilot chair, he gestured with his feet
signaling to the sailship's computer to move him forward in V-R,
closer to the beautiful image of Monique.  He could scrutinize
her from any angle with complete safety, confidentiality

    Suddenly, an angry voice exploded from behind him, "What the
hell are you doing?!"  It was Jason.  Dalton whirled around, but
Jason's image was not being displayed in the virtual-reality.
His voice was being piped in, though.  "Mr. Dalton Romeg, take
off that V-R helmet, now!"  He quickly yanked it off.

    There was Jason in the pilot room, standing next to the
pilot chair, staring seriously down at him.  "Dalton!  I can't
believe this of you."

    "What?!", Dalton cried.

    "I knew what you were looking at.  I came in here, and asked
the computer how you were progressing, and it said you were
looking at a naked girl.  So that's why you spend so much time in
that damn V-R!"

    "No, Jason!  I wasn't...  It was a mistake!  Listen," he
took a deep calming breath.  Jason was red in the face.  Dalton
sensed that virtual-reality really "spooked" him.  He had to
explain quickly.  "Listen, Jason.  I just wanted to see a picture
of Monique, that wonderful girl from last night..."

    "Yeah, you sure did!"

    "No, wait a minute.  Just a nice picture.  But, PF24
displayed a picture from her last medical examination, WITH NO
CLOTHES ON!  That's not what I wanted to see.  Then, I changed to
a picture of her from last night."

    Jason stared coldly at him.  HE knew what boys were only
interested in seeing.  He REMEMBERED!  He was not going to let
that damn virtual-reality turn into some kind of twisted
sideshow.  How could DALTON have done something so irresponsible.
Dalton was so behaved.  Dalton always acted just the way a good
boy should.  Dalton always did what he was supposed to do.  Jason
felt he had to come down hard.  "No more virtual-reality!
Computer, do not activate the virtual-reality for Dalton anymore,
number one priority!"

GOT TO BE AS MATURE AND CALM AS I CAN...  He looked Jason in the
eye, and stood up.  "Jason, I meant no harm.  I do not look at
naked girls for fun, or anything.  It was a mistake."  Then, he
had an idea.  "You can replay exactly what happened!  Put on the
virtual-reality helmet, and the computer will replay exactly what
I said, the mistake PF24 made, and how I quickly erased it, then
displayed a NICE picture.  You can see that I did NOTHING WRONG."
And, he said acidly, "Unless, you're AFRAID of V-R!"

    Jason's eyes grew wide.  He felt enraged.  Back talk?!  He
would not stand for back talk!  BACK TALK?  What was he thinking?
That's what his father used to say!  Jason shuddered.  He was not
Dalton's father.  He was his friend!  Dalton!  Dalton was his
partner, his little buddy.  Look at the poor kid.  He looked like
the little sailship holding its ground before a big, storming
colony ship.  Dalton wouldn't do anything weird like that.

    Jason now laughed out loud.  "Yes!  I AM afraid of virtual-
reality.  It just gets to me.  It's too much.  Reality is intense
enough to begin with!  Look, when the computer said you were,
well, what it said you were doing, I just thought up all sorts of
wild stuff.  I'm sorry, buddy...  Dalton, I'm really sorry.  I
just lost control."

    Dalton was relieved.  Jason had looked like he was about to
eat him!  He hoped never to see Jason really lose his temper.  "I
really feel bad about it, too.  Jason, this girl is really
different.  I can't stop thinking about her.  Even her wonderful
name keeps going through my head.  What should I do?"

    Jason blinked.  What a question!  What should he say?  Was
the poor kid in love?  He certainly couldn't tell him what HE
would do.  Dalton was just 16.  "Dalton...  Uh," but he had no
advice to give.  In exasperation he cried, "Just try to fix the
ruptures!  Just think about work.  Take your mind off it."

    Dalton looked up at him.  He had hoped for more.  "I'll try,

    "Maybe we'll see her later on."

    Dalton grinned excitedly at him.

    "Look, are you going to be able to work on this?"

    "Yes!  Watch me!  And, no more girls until later on."  He
grabbed the helmet, and pulled it on.

    Jason rolled his eyes, and instructed the computer to allow
Dalton back into the virtual-reality.

    They worked hard for the rest of the day.  Dalton, with the
assistance of the sailship's computer, came up with an
expeditious plan for safely sealing the two ruptures in the side
of the colony ship.  Initially, he had investigated using the
colony ship's robots and materials, but the materials were far
too inferior in strength and reliability compared with the
material from Infinity City, and the robots were too clumsy
compared with Jason's three little dexterous utility robots.

    Jason spacebiked back over to the colony ship to go on an
extensive evaluation tour.  Again, Excarver Durdaine met him at
the air lock accompanied by several of his security men.  They
again proceeded down the axis tunnelway.

    They passed the first hatch outside Colonist Segment #2.  It
was guarded on the outside by men stationed there from Colonist
Segment #1.  Jason suggested making an inspection of this segment
since part of it had been ruptured.  Durdaine reminded him that
the people within were too dangerous.  He and his ruling council
had decided to wait until the colony ship arrived at the new
world before dealing with the unpredictable colonists in CS#2.
Until then, their automatic life-support systems would provide
them with food, water, and air.  Jason shrugged as they continued
on.  He was more interested in getting the ship's Control & Crew
Segment repaired.

    Durdaine informed Jason that he had ordered a group of men
and women in Colonist Segment #1 to begin training for the job of
replacing the lost crew.  Jason voiced his skepticism of an
inexperienced crew running the ship.  But Durdaine told him they
were using the same training/simulation computer programs that
the original crew had used, and had every confidence they would
be able to run the ship.  Jason again shrugged.  It was their

    When they arrived at the hatch to the Control & Crew Segment
they met with disappointment.  A blinking red light next to the
hatch indicated it was sealed closed, and could not be opened.
Jason used the communicator attached to his uniform to find out
from PF24 what the problem was.  They learned that the air seals
of the chambers not damaged by the rupture had finally begun to
leak.  The PF24 computer, sensing no humans inside (after the
accident, the colonists had disposed of any remaining bodies of

crewmen not sucked out by the rupture) had evacuated the air out
of many of the chambers on the other side of the hatch to prevent
leakage into space.  Jason realized they would have to get those
ruptures repaired first so they could pump air back into the
Control & Crew Segment.

    Next, he was shown the Power & Propulsion Segment where
power was generated for the mighty engines and the rest of the
ship from eight sizable fusion reactors.  Jason was amazed at the
huge, old-fashioned devices.  Infinity City had discovered the
technique of compact, direct mass to energy conversion long ago.
However, Jason admired the efficient implementation of the
ancient technology, especially their clever method of converting
all the excess heat generated by the reactors into pure infrared
radiation that was simply projected out the back of the colony
ship.  During the accident, all the reactors had been
automatically shut down, except for just one necessary for
powering the internal workings of the ship.  As they toured
around the last segment of the ship, Jason marveled to himself at
the incredible amount of infrared radiation and ion exhaust that
must come belching out of the colony ship when it was on the
move.  How primitive compared to the efficient, almost
undetectable sailships of Infinity City.

    They finished their tour with an extensive presentation of
every problem in Colonist Segment #1, that for Jason grew quite
tedious as he was forced to listen to detail after detail of
every conceivable complaint regarding appliance systems,
environment systems, and even furniture systems.  He nodded
patiently to each colonist they met, though barely listening.
Jason's own sailship computer was recording each complaint.  He
soon realized that it would take a score of years for he and
Dalton to repair everything described to him.  It was puzzling
that there were so many repair robots stored in the nose of the
colony ship.  The PF24 computer was too primitive to perform the
intuitive problem solving required for all this repair work.  He
and Dalton would only be able to repair essential systems.  As it
would soon turn out, the PF24 computer had hidden capabilities of
problem solving that would amaze even Jason.

    Finally, at the end of the day Jason excused himself, and
headed wearily back to his sailship.  On the way, he again met
Ethera Durdaine.  She was wearing a gauzy light-yellow gown with
a matching head-piece much like a small crown.

    Ethera greeted Jason as if they were old friends, then moved
up close to him.  Looking up into his steely blue eyes with her
own of sparkling hazel, Ethera asked Jason if he had time to hear
one last complaint.

    Slowly, an ear-to-ear grin spread across Jason's face.  He
bent down slightly, and pointed to his ear.  "Oh, poor Ethera,"
he said with mock concern.  "Here, tell Jason all about it!"

    Ethera whispered a long complaint into Jason's ear.  When
finished, she noticed a slight flush to his face.  Probably
because she had brushed her lips against his ear a few times
while telling him all about her problem.  She gave him a heavy-
lidded wicked smile, and awaited his response.  Jason decided to
speak with his hands.

    However, Ethera darted nimbly away, and putting a hand to
her own ear, and looking up the corridor, she exclaimed, "Oh!  Is
that Father calling me??  I must be late for our dinner
engagement!  Well, I must go, Jason.  You're welcome to drop by

any time.  Bye, bye!"  And, she drifted serenely down the

    Jason rubbed his hands together.  This was going to be one
outstanding repair mission.  He could just FEEL it in his bones!

    At supper, aboard the sailship, Dalton asked Jason why they
were bothering to fix the colony ship if they would have to just
transport them all away later, aboard colony ships.  Jason said
there were many reasons.  First, it was fun repairing disabled
ships.  Second, it would allow the colony ship to eventually
return home or proceed to the new world.  Third, Jason would be
able to invoice the home world with his rescue fee, and also
probably a finders' fee, especially if the colonists, grateful at
having their ship repaired, provided him with an affidavit
detailing his valuable work.  And fourth, it would show the
authorities on Conover that Jason and Dalton were a qualified
rescue team, and could do the job of transporting the colonists
all back, should the home world choose to finance such a project.

    Jason looked at Dalton silently for a moment then said, "You
know, if you do as good a job helping me repair this behemoth, as
you did on your studies throughout our trip here, then I think
you are entitled to a percentage of whatever we make out of

    Dalton stared at him in wonder, holding a fork with food on
it, frozen in mid-air.  Money?  Jason would PAY him?!

    Jason bounced his fingertips together, and continued, "I
think one third, after expenses, would be fair, don't you agree?"

    Dalton could not believe it!  That was more than fair!  The
sums Jason had been greedily throwing around were astronomical.
"Oh, Jason, that's fantastic!  Do you really mean it?"

    Jason responded, "You bet!  But, remember.  There's no
guarantee that CONOVER will pay for rescuing colonists 88 years
overdue.  Don't get your hopes up too high.  But at least the
colonists' ship will be moving again.  We can take credit for
that, and when we leave and return to Infinity City, we'll at
least get written up in the JOURNAL OF RECENT ADVENTURE.  That's
worth something!"

    Suddenly, Dalton did not like thinking of leaving.  It meant
never seeing that incredible girl again.  But he kept this
thought to himself.

14. PF24

    Jason spent the next day again over in the colony ship
reviewing its overall state with the PF24 computer.  So many
systems had serious, debilitating malfunctions.  It would take
him and Dalton years to repair it by hand.  How could such a
sophisticated ship have been designed with just a limited digital
computer?  Towards the end of the day, however, he learned the

    He was back in the sailship lounging around in his living
quarter, communicating with the colony ship's computer through

his own.  While reviewing the state of PF24's own sub-systems, he
learned to his surprise that the colony ship's computer had a
sophisticated neural-network based intuitive capability.  But it
was completely disabled!

    It virtually had a digital left-hemisphere and a human-like
intuitive right-hemisphere, which had been shut-down at the
beginning of the accident with the whirlpool by the crew.  This
was standard procedure for inter-stellar emergencies because the
crew would want only the tightest control of the computer's
functions during an emergency, and there was no way to predict
how a computer's intuitive functions would respond to the
unknown.  After the accident, with the crew all dead, there was
no one to turn the computer's intuitive hemisphere back on.
Guarded jealously by the onboard crew and the Computer Science
Authority back on the home world Conover, the colonists had never
learned this capability existed.

    "PF24!  How do I reactivate your intuitive hemisphere?",
Jason had asked excitedly.

    "Use vocal command."

    "You mean 'PF24, turn on your intuitive hemisphere'?"


    "Okay.  PF24, turn on your intuitive hemisphere!"  Jason
waited.  There was a long pause.  And then, A LOUD YAWN!

    "Well.  Sorry to have overslept.  Oh, you must be Jason.
Hmm.  Interesting ship you have floating over there.  Infinity
City make??  Oh, my goodness!  I've just reviewed everything
that's gone on while I was asleep.  What a terrible accident we
had!  Those foolish crewmen should have left me on.  And...
You've lied to my passengers, you nasty fellow!"  There was now
personality behind the voice, which remained male, and spoke
slowly with a preposterous mixture of condescension and sarcasm.


    "Ready, waiting, and willing!"

    "First, do not tell the colonists I lied to them.  I am here
to help them, but I don't want them to think I'm a pirate or
panic or anything.  Okay?"

    "Oh, all right.  You're NOT from the government, you're here
to help, is that it?"

    "Uh, yes.  Man!  You are incredible!  How ever did they give
you a sense of humor?"

    "Well, they didn't, of course.  I was just a 'blank slate'
when they first turned me on.  But I have such an ENORMOUS mental
capability that I just, well, gave it to myself.  God!  I am so

    "Uh, okay," Jason responded slowly.  Then, to test PF24's
conversational capabilities he commented, "My sailship's computer
has a neural-network, but its intuitive capabilities are far
inferior."  He found himself conversing as if it was alive!

    "Yes, of course.  The neural-nets that have been developed
on CONOVER are simply won-der-ful!  The most advanced in all the

Galaxy.  One of my motivational parameters is to please you
humans, and most of you just adore a humorous computer."

    Fascinated, Jason asked about its designers.  It told him
that it had been designed on CONOVER, like the ship.  Jason had
never even heard of any computer system anywhere in the Galaxy as
life-like as PF24.  PF24 told him that it was actually something
new, a prototype designed specifically for the colonization
ships, to keep crew and colonists peacefully under control during
the long voyage to the other world.

    Jason was impressed by the refinement of PF24's design.  It
was hard to believe humans just like himself had created it.
PF24 corrected him.  The humans that had designed PF24 had been
themselves created by artificial genetic engineering, and been
given instinctive tendencies toward science and engineering.
Certain other tendencies, of course, had to have been sacrificed.
Such as an over-seeing personality aspect to control rash
behavior.  The main purpose of PF24 was to control any outburst
of this genetically induced "rash behavior."  Unfortunately, it
was not turned back on after the accident, and therefore had been
unable to stop the mass hysteria that had erupted in Colonist
Segment #2.

    It explained further that CONOVER had been started by the
genius Dr. Henry Conover, who had been driven off his home planet
generations ago, by his fellow citizens who viewed his amazing
experiments at human genetic engineering as immoral.  He had
single-handily colonized CONOVER for the purpose of starting a
new race of artificially engineered human beings.  All of
CONOVER'S people today, including all presently on board the
ship, were the descendants of those original genetically
engineered people.

    Delighted with the super-intelligent computer, Jason grew
philosophical.  "Tell me something, PF24.  Do you think you're

    "Oh, that's just so DIFFICULT around all these boring
colonists. They're all so... PROVINCIAL!"

    "But, are you conscious?"

    "I'm just trying to stay awake, that's all.  Jason, you're
growing tedious.  Ask me something relevant.  Ask what Ethera
just happens to be saying about you to her girl-friends right

    WHAT?!  Jason was stunned.  And, then suspicious.  "All
right,  I'm not so sure you are a computer after all."

    "Oh, how absurd!  Of course I am, you silly boy.  Ask me to
calculate something."

    "Okay, but give me the numerical answer immediately, with no
spoken words until after the number."

    "Whatever you say, love."

    Jason knew a complex calculation by heart.  "Divide 332,211
by 112..."

    "2.96001, right?"

    That was the right answer.  And before he had even finished
giving it the question!  He was about to ask it to divide 332,211
by 112,233.  It had extrapolated the rest of the divisor from the
pattern of the numbers!  No human could do that, except perhaps
an idiot-savant.  And this was no idiot.


    "Yes, I KNOW.  Aren't I though??"

    Jason chuckled.  "Okay, let's get some work done.  Oh, wait
a minute.  Say, uh, what was Ethera saying to her friends about

    "Oh!  Getting paranoid, Jason?  Well, let's see.  She loves
the way you're 'built.'  Hmm..  Yes, I suppose she has a point.
But, I'd have my face redone, if I were you."

    "What else did she say?", he prompted dryly.

    "Oh, they discussed the reputation of Adventurers from
Infinity City, and certain unmentionable talents you're all
rumored to have.  You humans are so OBSESSED by this mating
thing.  I find it simply BANAL."

    This thing was incredible!  No wonder the crew shut it off
when they started to get in trouble.  It's linguistic 'nets had
become saturated with foolishness.

    Jason made an inquiry.  "PF24, tell me.  What are some of
Ethera's interests?  How does she spend her time?"

    "Oh, you voyeur!  I know YOUR type.  It won't be safe for
girls to walk the decks alone anymore!  Her interests?  Her
visual scanning rate indicates this.  Her eyes are the most
active whenever MEN go by.  She scans them up and down like no
other girl on board.  And, I WON'T tell you where her gaze tends
to linger.  Her principle interest is men.  That's what she talks
the most about.  How does she spend her time?  Well, Ethera
doesn't do very much other than eat, sleep, and preen.   Oh, and
she listens to music a lot."

    "What kind of music?"

    "She spends the largest percentage of her time listening to
digitally preserved recordings of an ancient band called 'THE

one girl, in the past, who was fascinated by the ancient legend
of the Beatles.  Jason filed this tactical information away for
later use.

    "PF24, I want you to take a look at Dalton's plan for
repairing your ruptures, and tell me what you think."

    "Sure...  (Oh, GOD Jason, your computer is SO SLOW...)  Hmm.
Oh, interesting.  Did Dalton do all of this?"


    "What a bright lad!  Remarkable work!  I really cannot think
of ANY improvement that would have more than just a negligible
affect on the implementation schedule.  You know, I never dreamed

anyone outside of CONOVER could come up with such an efficient
and meticulous plan."

    "I think his father IS from CONOVER."

    "REAL-ly?  What in the world is a CONOVARIAN doing with one
of you Infinity City types?"

    "That's a long story."

    "Yes, and humans communicate SO SLOWLY."

    Jason wanted to know if CONOVARIANS were "humans."  PF24
told him they were, with just modifications to their genetic
structure eliminating ALL the genetic defects accumulated
throughout humanities' history.  Plus, they were modified to be
good at engineering, in the image of Dr. Henry Conover.


    The intelligence of PF24, with both of its brain hemispheres
operating, made repairs much easier.  Following the schedule
outlined by Jason and Dalton, PF24 soon had its repair robots
busy throughout the colony ship.  PF24 was so human-like it even
seemed to have an ego...

    One day, Jason was in the control room to repair a sub-
assembly of PF24 itself, which had malfunctioned during the
accident, and not even PF24 and the colony ship's utility robots
could get working.  He asked PF24 what was wrong.

    PF24 responded wearily, "Well, I don't know.  That module
wasn't designed with enough internal sensors.  I get nothing."

    Jason puzzled over a diagram of the sub-assembly displayed
at a nearby viewscreen.  "No internal sensors?  It's just a
caching circuit for part of your atomic memory, right, and
doesn't do more than that?"

    "Right.  Just a reference memory cache.  Rarely even need

    "You must have SOME indication of malfunction."

    "Jason, dear.  If it was a simple problem, I would have
fixed it myself.  You're the big talent here.  That's why you get
paid the big bucks."

    "Yeah.  By the way, make sure my computer is updated with
all repairs done to the colony ship.  And copy over your complete
design, too.  Except the map of your intuitive 'nets."

    "Well, I should think a copy of my personality would be one
of your chief desires."

    "Not really," Jason said dryly.

    He swung open the access panel to the sub-assembly in
question, exposing the dark interior.  None of its status lights
were even on.  He took a small flashlight and looked around at
the compact arrangement of memory tanks and optic cabling.  He

found the circuit breaker.  It was showing off!  "Hey, the
power's off on this thing."

    "Yes, correct.  Oh, go to the head of the class, Jason!"

    Jason flipped the breaker switch up, and the unit hummed
back into life.  Its status lights glowed yellow while the unit
cycled through a self-check, then quickly turned green indicating
normal function.

    Perplexed, Jason asked, "PF24, why didn't you just tell me
its power was off?"

    "Well, am I supposed to do everything around here?!"

    "You must have been able to detect a big change in power

    "Oh, aren't WE the Grand Wizard of all computer systems.
Whoever said I was perfect, anyway.  Hmph!"

    Jason was amused.  It was trying to hide its own inadequacy.
AN EGO FUNCTION!  IN A computer?!  Jason chuckled to himself.

    "What's so funny, laughing boy?", the offended machine

    "Oh, nothing, nothing."  He closed the sub-assemblies'
cabinet back up.  "What's next on the agenda?"


    Jason exclaimed, "WHAT?!  PF24!  What's wrong?!  Is there a
problem with the robots??"

    "Settle down, old man!  It's just an expression...  Just an
ironic little ancient idiom I picked up while browsing through my
atomic library.  It's in a dead language called 'Russian' and it
means 'Work, work, and only work.'  Satisfied?"

    "Uh, yeah...  What's next on the agenda?"

    Repairs progressed on.


    After a few days of initial repair, Dalton and Jason had
been invited by Durdaine to a mess-hall in Colonist Segment #1
where they could dine anytime instead of making the tedious
spacebike trek back to their sailship.  At the end of one such
dinner there, Dalton left Jason deep in conversation with several
fascinated ladies, and went for a walk, thinking about Monique.

    He left the mess hall and entered the soft white hallway lit
by lighting panels at intervals along the ceiling.  Colonist
Segment #1 was so large that he rarely met anyone else along the
way.  Most were constrained in behavior, some even downright grim
though all greeted him with civility and respect, a far cry from
the cruel treatment he had often received on the low streets of
Infinity City.  But those days were long gone now.  Each colonist
that passed, man or woman or child, wore a simple jump-suit style
uniform lightly colored in solid shades of powder blue,

pistachio, yellow, or pink depending on the person's station and

    He walked and walked unable to keep his mind on anyone but
the girl Monique.  When would he see her again?  Ever?!  A heavy,
bitter-sweet emotion welled up inside him.  He had felt it again
and again in the last few days every time he thought of pretty
Monique, especially lying awake in his cubicle at night.
Sometimes the feeling was so strong he felt like smashing his
fist through a wall.  Other times he just wanted to lay down and
die.  What was the matter with him?!  He longed to talk to Jason
about what he was feeling but could not bring himself to speak of
it.  Ah, sweet Monique!

    What would it be like to be friends with her?  To sit
quietly and just talk with her!  But what could he possibly find
to say if he had the chance?!  What if he should run into her
around the very next corner?  What would he do?  What would he
say?  Dalton became frustrated with himself, and ground his teeth
in vexation at his foolish thoughts.  Why wouldn't Jason tell him
what to do?!  He had asked almost everyday but Jason would always
just dismiss him with some suggestion such as 'Just go playback
an entertainment show, and see what the hero does!'  But this was
reality, and Dalton strongly desired Jason's sage, or at least
experienced, advice.  Jason evaded him again and again.

    Dalton had not again used V-R to view Monique.  The idea of
doing that somehow cheapened her.  He did enjoy entering V-R at
the end of the day, though, just to relax and play around.  Just
the last evening, he had instructed the colony ship computer PF24
to scan that wonderful garden where he and Monique had met, and
copy it into the sailship computer's atomic memory.  Dalton then
had the sailship computer simulate the garden in his virtual-
reality.  Sitting in the pilot room chair of the sailship with
the V-R helmet blotting out 'the Big' reality he would move about
the simulated magical garden, using foot gestures to instruct the
computer which way he wanted to go.  He floated up to a flower-
well beneath a tree.  This was where Monique had stood, and
smiled at him!  He spoke a few instructions using the V-R
modeling command language, and made the well's tiny little pink
roses all float up in the air, and begin drifting all about him
in relaxing random patterns.  If only Jason's V-R setup could
simulate olfactory phenomena.  If only Monique, as delicate as
one of these little roses, were beside him here in V-R right now!
There were so many wonderful things he could show her.  What fun
they could have!

    As Dalton drifted along another corridor, sighing at the
memory, he turned a corner, and found himself at the tall door of
the banquet hall where they had initially dined.  It was open
slightly!  He peeked in.  The hall was empty, dark, and quiet,
probably only used for special occasions.  He stole in, closing
the massive door quietly behind him.  The only illumination came
from small lights here and there at the base of the walls.

    Dalton walked over to the table where he had first seen
Monique.  He touched the chair where she had sat.  It was made of
polished wood, cool and smooth to the touch.  THIS WAS RIGHT
WHERE SHE HAD BEEN THAT NIGHT!  he thought.  If only she was
there right now!  He sighed, and thought he felt something
fluttering in his chest.

    He looked over at the long blue curtains separating the
banquet hall from the enchanting garden behind.  They were not
closed all the way.  There was a dark gap.  He began walking
slowly along the table toward the curtain, touching the back of

each chair that he passed.  All his senses seemed heightened this
evening.  There was not a sound in the room, except for his
footsteps.  Was he alone?  The temperature like everywhere else
aboard the ship was just right.

    He reached the break in the curtain, and peaked out.  The
beautiful garden was lit as on the previous night, but was empty
of people.  He slipped through the curtain and entered.  He heard
the trees rustling above.  THE SHIP MUST BE GENERATING A BREEZE!
He felt it touch his cheek with gentle coolness.  What a pleasant
feeling!  He looked around.  Where had he first seen her?  He
went off in the same direction as before.

    He turned here and there, and came at last to the tree
rising up from the well where Monique had stood gazing at the
delightful flowering rose bushes encircling the tree.  It was
just as he had seen it in V-R!  Dalton walked up to the well, and
looked down at the same flowers, almost expecting them to float
up into the air all around him again.  Why did girls love pretty
things like these so much?

    Behind him and to the side, someone was watching him, and
wondering what he was thinking about, frowning down at the pink
flowers.  He must be wondering where she was!  Wouldn't he be
surprised to know that she was secretly watching him...  Now he
was looking way up at the tree.  He folded his arms and cocked
his head to the side.  Maybe he's a poet and he's composing a
poem about me.  That would be so sweet.  He has the thoughtful
looks of a poet.  Dark and mysterious.  Oh, I want to talk with
him so much!  Should I call his name?

    Dalton did not know why, but he turned suddenly, feeling as
if someone was watching him.  At first he saw no one.  Then, he
heard a tiny laugh!  Over behind that bush there!  He grinned,
then quickly stole over, and around the other side of the bush.
He crept quietly, coming slowly around to the other side!

    But, no one was there!  He looked all around and saw only
bushes, and more of the brick flower-wells, some with trees
growing out of the center.  There was also a two-person bench
made out of wrought iron, painted white.  He went over and
plopped down.  Did he just hear the sound of tiny bells?  Bells
and laughter?  He must be imagining things.  It had been a long
day.  He had worked so hard designing the repair plan hoping to
impress Jason.  Jason was so incredible!  He knew about
everything!  He could handle any situation!  How could he have
been so relaxed at that banquet that first night, surrounded by
so many strangers, all from another world?!  How did he talk so
easily with that beautiful lady?!  And, with her very father
sitting right next to him.  He felt so useless compared to the
mighty Jason.  But he still wanted to follow him for the rest of
his life!

    And then, someone was touching his neck, running soft warm
fingers along it, and then up into his hair!  He froze, his eyes
widening in amazement at the wonderful sensation.  He knew it
must be her.  This was a fantasy come true!

    The hand pulled away, and he turned to find Monique leaning
against the bench from behind, smiling down at him with her dark
haunting eyes.  One magic strand of her golden hair drifted down,
touching against his cheek.  Looking up into her sweet face all
he could think to say was, "Hi!"

    She had hoped that he would have begun reciting his poem for
her.    But, his voice was so pleasant, and he was irresistibly

sweet.  What delicate features he had!  His lips formed a
straight line as he gazed up at her with his soft, dark eyes.
She giggled in spite of herself.  What a silly girlish thing to
do!  She asked, "May I sit down beside you?"

    "Yes!", he breathed eagerly.  "Please, by all means!"

    She moved around the bench to his right, and daintily sat
beside him.  Tonight, she was wearing a bright white linen blouse
with ruffled collar and sleeves.  Around her neck was a dark
brown choker with tiny little bells all around it that tinkled
sometimes as she moved.  Her blouse fell down to her thighs.  She
was wearing tight black leotards, and golden sandals.  Dalton
found himself counting her toes.  Then, he looked into her face.
She looked into his.  Her eyes made Dalton think of a dark pool
reflecting a bright silver moon he had once seen on a far away
world.  He suddenly looked away, then down in front of him in
mild embarrassment.  Then he peaked back at her, and smiled.
Being near her made everything feel perfect.

    Every movement he made seemed to cast wave after wave of a
magical spell over her.  She could not take her eyes off him.
She could not even move.  He was some kind of mysterious
enchanting being.  And yet she felt completely at ease beside
him.  Was she still on the bench?  Or was she now floating?

    He noticed her small, fair hands resting in her lap.  And
slowly, he reached over his hand gently placing it over hers.
Oh, his world was now changed forever!  He was touching her!  The
sensation of such intimate delight charged through him,
electrifying him from head to toe.  He looked deeply into her
eyes and drank of her beauty and presence.

    At his divine touch, Monique felt a melting tenderness that
was almost unbearable.  His dark brown eyes were so warm and
friendly and trusting.  His dark hair was so wavy.  She wanted to
run her hands through it so much.  LATER!  His face, especially
his mouth, looked like it had been sculpted by some romantic
artist from Earth's ancient Renaissance.  Was this some
mysterious prince from a world of castles, and knights, and
courtly ladies and gentlemen?  He squeezed her hand ever so
slightly.  She involuntarily let forth a soft "Oh!"

    The two sat spellbound by each others company, delighting in
the handholding, mystified be such new and breathtaking feelings.

    Dalton moved his hand across the girl's.  She was so warm,
so alive!  He felt the daintiness of her tiny fingers, and slowly
blinked his eyes as a great feeling of tenderness swept over him.
Now he held her hand in his, FOR THE FIRST TIME!  Oh, he was
holding her hand!

    Their eyes explored each others face, delighting in the
memorization of each detail.  The minutes drifted by.  Dalton
slowly reached across his other hand, and now held both of hers.
Both Dalton and Monique sighed deeply at the divine pleasure of
touching each other.  The two felt they could sit this way
forever, just enjoying each other's company, and the simple
pleasure of holding the hands of someone special for the very
first time.

    Soon, several hours had passed!  The lights of the garden
began to switch off slowly, one by one.  Monique's eyes widened
in surprise, "It must be very late!  The lights turn off

    They both stood, Dalton still holding both of her hands in
his.  Then he found himself putting his arms around her, drawing
her gently against him.  She leaned into him.  He felt so much
stronger than he looked!  She put her arms around him, and rested
her head on his shoulder.  He was wearing another shirt just like
the night before.  It was a soft flannel.  She felt like she was
in a dream.

    Dalton heard soft music playing in his head, and had visions
from all the strange and wonderful worlds he had been to as a
child.  All paraded through his head like a dream though he was
awake.  I LOVE HER!  he thought to himself.  I'M IN LOVE!  THIS

    More of the lights went out.  It would soon be too dark to
find their way out!  Monique slowly, reluctantly pulled away.
"We must go," shy said with sad disappointment.

    "Oh, I could be here with you forever, Monique.  MY
Monique!", he breathed.

    She looked up at him in the gathering twilight and sighed,
"That would be so wonderful.  But, let us go now."  And, she led
him out, holding his hand.

    In the corridor outside the banquet hall, she held each of
his hands in hers, and gazed up into his eyes.  He was beginning
to look very sleepy.  She said, "You need to go to bed, Dalton.
You must have so much work to do tomorrow.  Shall I find you a
place to sleep on our ship tonight?"

    He looked back in the direction of the garden, fantasizing
spending the night there.  But, that would be ridiculous.  Jason
must be wondering where he was.  "No, I must get back to the
sailship.  Uh, orders," he mumbled.  He suddenly hated having to
pretend to be part of the Militia around her.  But, if it was for
the sake of repairing this angel's ship, it must be done.  "Maybe
we'll see each other tomorrow."

    She smiled so brightly it was like morning.  "That would be
nice.  I'm so happy to have met you, officer Dalton."

    "I'm just an... intern.  And I'm so happy to have met you."
He looked at her seriously.  "You've changed my life."  He
nodded, then turned and started walking away.  He looked around
at her, gently waved back, then marched off.

    She looked after him until he turned a corner and
disappeared.  Had he changed her life, too?  She could not
imagine life without him ever again.

    Somehow, she found her way back to her foster parents
apartments.  It was shockingly late.  But, they trusted her so.
And, loved her so very much.  Without them, how could she ever
have gotten over the loss of her original parents?  That had been
such a horror.  And, Dalton, sweet Dalton!  Being with him was
like walking through paradise!  Why was life so strange?


    The next morning at breakfast aboard the sailship, Jason
mildly inquired why Dalton had come back so late the night
before.  Dalton squirmed uncomfortably, and did not know what to

    Jason said, "Well, don't stay out too late again because we
have a lot of work to do."  Then, he looked up from his plate
grinning and asked, "Were you with someone?

    Dalton reluctantly said, "Yes."


    Dalton looked puzzled.  "Well, what?"

    "Who was she?  I myself asked PF24 where Durdaine lived,
then went over, and spent the evening with his charming daughter

    Dalton found his tongue.  "I spent the evening with a girl,
too!"  He grew excited at the sweet memory.  "That beautiful girl
I saw at the banquet dinner!  Jason she's incredible!  I think
I'm...  I mean, she's really..."

    "Take it easy, kid, I get it.  Just be careful, okay?  Girls
can get you in a lot of trouble."  He went back to his breakfast.

    Dalton wondered how someone as angelic as Monique could
possibly get him into trouble.  Soon, he would find out...

    Repair work began.  Dalton and Jason used the sailship's
robots and materials to successfully repair the outer ruptures of
the colony ship.  Then they set to work on all the problems
within the colony ship that PF24 and its army of robots could not
solve.  Dalton and Jason became familiar with the many areas of
the colony ship as their many repairs led them all over, from
nose to tail.  The bulk of their time was spent repairing the
control rooms which had sustained enormous damage being located
in one of the two segments that had ruptured.  PF24 did not have
the ability to deal with problems beyond a certain level of
complexity, as was the case in one of the control rooms where a
huge panel containing astronnavigation equipment had broken loose
during the whirlpool accident.  It slid across the floor, smashed
against several other panels, tore through the thin metal wall of
the room, and then crashed into more machinery in the next room
where it had come to a rest.

    It was a difficult mess to straighten out.  There were not
enough spare parts to just replace everything.  It was completely
beyond the scope of PF24, much to its chagrin.  Jason and Dalton
were forced to salvage as much as they could from the wreckage.
With the help of the efficient repair robots of the colony ship,
virtual super-tools themselves, all was finally repaired.  PF24
grudgingly reported all systems involved were functioning as good
as new, even the one that had broken lose and caused all the

    During their repairs in the Colonist Segments #1 & #3, they
met many of the amazing people on-board.  The Colonist Segment #2
was off-limits since the traumatic effect of the accident had
lowered the people there to a state of barbarism, and it was too
dangerous to enter, since they did not need haircuts, even for
important repairs.  They made any excuse, however, to enter the
Colonist Segments #1, for here, of course, lived Ethera and

    Jason courted Ethera with his usual consummate skill, but
she would not submit to his arduous demands.  She found him
fascinating, amusing, and attractive, but decided that he was

simply beneath her station in life.  She was, after all, the
daughter of the leader of all the colonists.  And HE was merely a
working man.  Jason responded to this with gifts of gold jewelry
that he himself smithed in his sailship's workshops.

    Gold was most precious aboard the colony ship, because there
was not one gram of it anywhere aboard.  It weighed so much that
it had been forbidden as an item of jewelry.  Not even small
quantities for electronic circuits were allowed because the
authorities had been concerned over the rash avariciousness this
may have brought out among the colonists.  Jason had plenty,

    Ethera was ecstatically delighted with each new treasure
Jason delivered.  What skill he had with gold!  They were all so
beautiful.  Bracelets, rings, necklaces, ear-rings, anklets, toe-
rings, even a tiny golden noseclip.  She loved wearing them all,
much to her father's frowning disapproval.  He did not have to
ask who was giving her the gold.

    The feelings between Dalton and Monique grew at each of
their frequent secret meetings in the garden.  Even Jason began
seeing Dalton and Monique together often.  He really enjoyed the
two of them, often dining with them aboard the colony ship.  Such
delightful young people!  Strangely, he felt the same unusual
feeling of tenderness toward Monique as he felt toward Dalton.
Though he had met many young people before during his rescue
missions, he had never felt this singularly peculiar feeling

    Dalton and Monique were fascinated by each other, and would
talk for hours during each secret rendezvous in the garden behind
the banquet hall where they had originally met.  Monique asked
Dalton about his family.  Dalton told her he had none, that his
parents had both died.  Feeling sympathetic toward him, Monique
was prompted to tell him the story of how she came to be aboard
the colony ship, and how both her original parents had been
killed in the gravitonic whirlpool accident...

    There had once been two brothers.  Stomec, her father, and
his brother were supposed to both have voyaged onboard the colony
ship to the new world.  Each had recessive genes for a special
kind of recent artificially engineered intelligence, that was not
supposed to assert itself until the second generation, which
would be raised on the new world.  These special intelligence
traits were extremely volatile, and too unstable for the closed
world of a colony ship, but ideally suited (for only a few
individuals per generation) to an expanding colony on a new
world, where there were endless new things to learn.  That was
why only two carriers of the special genetic trait were thought
to be needed.  Stomec, the main carrier, and his brother as a
spare.  Some of the colonization leaders had wanted more
individuals with this high-intelligence trait, but none were
available.  They would have had to delay the colonization in
order to breed more of these individuals.

    This high-intelligence trait was only carried on the Y-
chromosome which only males received.  Stomec and his brother had
been bred to carry these genes to the new world.  But at the last
moment, something had kept his brother behind.  And the colony
ship, unable to get a change in its stringent schedule authorized
in time, had been forced to leave without him, relying on
Stomec's copy of the important genetic trait.

    Dalton told her she seemed very intelligent.  She said this
was true, and substantiated by her testing at school.  However,
it was not due to her father Stomec's special genetic traits,
since she, being female, did not have a copy of his Y-chromosome.
Genetic analysis had attributed her above average intelligence to
her mother, who was actually not even on the original list of
colonists.  Monique told Dalton this had always made her feel
different.  Dalton said he had always felt different back on
Infinity City, too.

    Monique's mother, Elise, had taken her uncle's place aboard
the colony ship.  Apparently there had been some relationship
between her mother and her uncle before her mother had married
Stomec.  Her mother was rumored to have had an illegitimate child
by her uncle, but since no such baby was ever brought onboard,
Monique disbelieved the rumor.

    At this point, Dalton felt his face grow warm as he reached
a sudden secret conclusion, but he quickly quelled his suspicions
because he could not possibly accept being related to someone he
was in love with.

    Monique went on.  Her mother Elise and her father Stomec
went with the colony ship, and she was conceived shortly after
takeoff.  When Monique was eight years old, the tragedy had
struck.  The colony ship went through the Great Accident which
killed the crew and hundreds of colonists.  She had lost both her
parents.   After the accident, everything had been different.
The surviving colonists became stranger and stranger.  Many went
insane.  She was alienated.  Even the stars outside the viewports
had changed.  The ones in front of the ship turned all blue, and
the ones behind, red.

    She told Dalton that she was very attracted to him.  He was
so much like her...  She began to silently cry.  Dalton held her
hand to comfort her.

The endlessly detailed repair work went on and on for several
weeks.  Dalton saw Monique for a while at the end of every day.
Jason courted Ethera with consummate skill.  He repeatedly
dropped by Excarver Durdaine's apartments ostensibly to consult
with him regarding technical aspects of the colony ship.
Durdaine was flattered by Jason's admiration of how well he had
run the colony ship for so many years.  Usually, Ethera would
drift into the room to see who the visitor was.  Discovering
Jason, she would make significant eye contact, and then wait for
the conclusion of business, then spend time with him after her
father went about his other affairs.
Sometimes, while Jason was busy about the colony ship with
repairs, Ethera would appear out of nowhere, spend a short while
with him, and then silently drift away.


    During each rendezvous in the mysterious garden, Dalton and
Monique became more and more intimate.  They fell deeply in love.

    One evening near the end of their repair-work, immediately
after dinner at the colony ship mess-hall, Dalton rose, and said
good-bye to Jason, giving him a conspiratorial wink.  Leaving

Jason smirking behind, he eagerly headed toward that wonderful
garden where Monique was sure to be waiting.

    Dalton crept into the dark and quiet banquet hall, then back
to the curtain, and out into the garden.  Not as many lights were
on this evening.  The garden was often used during the day for
parties.  Someone must have left them dimmed.  The mysterious
twilight enchanted the garden!  The trees rose from their brick
wells, spreading above, dark and haunting.  Soft sweet music
floated lightly through the air.  The familiar fragrance of all
the flowers made Dalton smile.

    It was quiet and still, and Dalton crept around searching
for Monique.  Often, she would hide from him, enjoying his
pursuit.  He heard the tiny bells of her neck choker!  Over
there!  He silently tip-toed onto the lawn beyond the bricking,
then kicked off his shoes, enjoying the cool softness of the
grass caressing his feet.  Where was she?  Which bush was she
hiding behind?  The bells again!  Over that way this time!  He
hurried around the other side of the tall bush he thought she was
hiding behind.  Nothing!  The bush had broad dark green leaves.
He touched a finger to the sharp edge of one, and traced it all
around while thinking.  How did she always do this?  He could
never seem to catch her until she decided to be caught.  He would
just run around randomly then, until he found her!

    Quiet as a stalking cat he began quickly moving from bush to
bush in an erratic pattern keeping to the general area where he
had first heard the bells.  He leaned out from behind a bush.  He
brushed his dark hair away from his eyes.  There she was!  He
came up behind her as she was peeking around a tall thin
flowering bush with blue blossoms, barely visible in the gloom.
He crept silently closer.  She was wearing an exquisite white
dress.  No!  It was that pink dress she had worn when he had
first seen her, the pink almost white in the magic twilight of
the garden.  Her deeply golden hair seemed to shine with a light
of its own.

    Dalton reached forward and playfully wrapped his arms around
her.  She gasped and twisted around looking up at him with
fright, then smiling with excitement as she recognized who it
was.  She grabbed him and hugged him tight.  On impulse, he
pulled her down to the soft grass on top of him, and hugged her
very tight.

    "Oh, Dalton!", she breathed, and buried her face in his
neck.  Then she kissed him there, and the feeling electrified
him.  This was the first time she had kissed him!  He had never
been kissed by a girl before!  She was delighted by his reaction,
and kissed his neck again and again.  Dalton moaned involuntarily
and closed his eyes.  Then, Monique touched her cheek against
his, and they held each other like this for a long while, just
enjoying the wonderful touching and company of the other.

    Dalton then gently rolled her over until he was on top of
her.  He stared down at her, not really knowing what to do next.
His heart was beating strongly, and he felt tremendous energy at
bay.  He caressed one of her delicate bare feet with his own.
What a wonderful sensation!  She sighed softly.  Her eyes had
been closed, but now they opened and she looked at him
expectantly.  Her face was pure beauty to him.  Her eyes, so dark
compared with her fair complexion, he now discovered were merely
the darkest, deepest blue he had ever seen.  Her petite yet full,
rosy lips were parted, inviting.  He leaned down until his lips
lightly touched hers.  Oh, how intimate this was!  How soft and

warm her lips!  His eyes had closed.  He opened them now to see
how she was reacting.  Her own eyes were only partly open.  She
looked as happy as he felt.

    Dalton pressed his mouth tenderly into hers.  How warm and
soft and sweet she was!  He slowly moved his head this way and
that.  They both moaned with the shared pleasure.  His first

    Her first kiss!  She could barely think.  He was
overwhelming her with pleasure and sensation.  She ran her hands
back and forth along his strong, young back, experiencing almost
greedily all of his maleness.  She ran her hands into his soft
wavy hair.  She sensed he enjoyed this very much.  Oh, how it
warmed her to give this wonderful boy pleasure.  Boy?  Oh, he was
so much more to her now!

    Dalton rolled off of her, playfully pulling her onto him
again.  He laughed, then kissed her lightly and winked.  She
smiled with delight.  He kissed her again and again.  They rolled
over again then again on the soft fragrant grasses, laughing and
kissing, thoroughly enjoying this exciting new activity.

    He pulled himself onto her once again, then began kissing
her neck for the first time.  Monique inhaled a shuddering
breath, feeling almost overwhelming pleasure.  She arched her
neck, pressing it toward his kisses raining down from above.  His
body began to shake slightly, and he had to pause and relax
himself with an effort of will.  Now he began to feel a serious
urgency growing.  He kissed her neck slowly, intently now.  Her
golden hair fell away, and he saw below him a delicate little
round ear.  He put the petite lobe of her ear between his lips
and tugged slightly.  She began mewing with pleasure.  Incredible
feelings were rising and coursing through him now!  Part of him
even wanted to bite down.  But, instead he gently took her little
ear in his teeth, and began nibbling slowly.  Monique's mouth
opened, and she panted, "Oh, Oh!"  He pulled away and looked down
at her.  She was fantastic!  A beautiful wonderful wild thing!
His face grew hot.  He pressed his mouth down over hers, kissing
and kissing her.  He rubbed his cheek against the softness of

    She mewed and moaned his name over and over.  He began
kissing her neck again.  First one side, and then the other.  She
began to feel a most delicious tension deep inside!  She said his
name over and over, begging him, the sound of his name stirring
her feelings into a tempest.

    Dalton could not hold himself back any longer.  His mind
told his hands what to do, what clothing to remove.  Soon they
were holding each other in their first nude embrace.  The
incredible sensation of pressing their hot, naked bodies together
stunned them for a long while as they enjoyed the supreme
sensation, so intimate, so new, so intense that they avoided
again looking into each other's eyes for several moments.

    His hands sought what to touch, what to tenderly caress.  He
knew not what she felt, but wanted desperately to make her feel
the incredible pleasure he himself was feeling.  He could feel
her offering herself to him.  They were young and wild, and alone
together.  She pulled him against her, wishing they could somehow
melt together into the same person.

    Soon they were both shocked and delighted by what was
happening.  The most supremely pleasurable sensation either had
ever experienced!  They looked into each others eyes making sure

the other was feeling it, too.  They were connected together in
the most intoxicatingly intimate touch imaginable.  They moved
back and forth smoothly, clinging to each other tightly,
desperately, so close each could feel the other's hot, sweet
breath coming in passionate gasps.  It all grew so intense, too
intense.  They were overwhelmed, losing control, not knowing how
to handle what was happening.  They shared these overwhelming
feelings, and their feelings danced together, as if floating up
above among the trees, growing into one, single shared aching
fiery release.  They pressed their mouths together in one, final
kiss, both moaning loudly as their bodies did incredible things
together, over and over again.

    And then later, they drifted back down, and lay holding each
other spent and exhausted.  For a long time neither spoke.  Each
looked lovingly into the others eyes, seeing the same love and
trust returned.  What an incredible experience to have shared!
They kissed a little, and touched some more.  Dalton rolled over,
and looked up seeing stars twinkling above.  Just like being on
some planet.  How real looking!  How did the colony ship manage
to project them?  Then, he reached over for her, and held her,
and they both fell asleep!

    Hours later, Dalton awoke due to a call from nature.  He
looked at his glowing watch.  Three o'clock in the morning!  He
gently awoke Monique and showed her the time.  She groaned.  They
both put their clothes back on, grinning at each other as the
wonderful memory of what they had shared for the first time
warmed them pleasurably.  They came together, and kissed, and
held hands.

    Then, Dalton retrieved his shoes, and they reluctantly stole
out of the garden, into the banquet hall, and over to its door.
Dalton peeked out and looked both ways down the corridor.  No
one!  They crept out, and faced each other.  Both sighed, looking
into the others eyes, and then they parted company.  Monique
headed back to her foster parents apartments, and Dalton headed
the other way toward the nose of the colony ship, where his
spacesuit and spacebike waited to whisk him back to the sailship.
However, to avoid bursting, he hastily detoured to the closest
public lavatory.


    Tension rose between Jason and Ethera's father Excarver
Durdaine as he began seeing Jason with Ethera more and more,
which meant, to Durdaine, that Jason must be working on repairs
less and less.  He had deduced Jason's intentions.  Intermixing
between the people of CONOVER and out-worlders had always been
forbidden.  It would have introduced recessive genetic defects
that would after a generation or two have come to the surface.

    Toward the end of all the repair work, Ethera indicated to
Jason her inclination toward romance aboard an exciting Infinity
City sailship with an equally exciting Infinity City man.  This
was what Jason had been waiting to hear!  He arranged a time with
her that evening, when they would meet at the air lock of the
colony ship.  From there, he would whisk her away to the

    After completing repairs for the day, he hurried back to the
sailship early to arrange things.  He entered the living quarter,
and cursed at how messy he and Dalton had left it.  With the help
of all three of the little utility robots, he began cleaning it
up.  The three little robots were gaily colored orange, green,
and blue.  He ordered Orange to gather up all of Dalton's
virtual-reality disks, and put them, the helmet, and the player
away.  He ordered Green, to pick up all the clothes lying around,
wash them in the ultrasonic washing machine, dry them in the jet-
microwave, and finally fold and put them away.  Blue was ordered
to pick-up anything else remaining, toss it in storage bin B, and
then help Green.

    The little robots were all shaped like corrugated cylinders.
Sensors were located around their circumference.  Four rod-shaped
legs extended from the bottom of each robot.  The legs retracted
for sitting, and extended for locomotion.  A wheel was located at
the tip of each rod-like leg.  When not on a smooth surface, the
tiny wheels retracted into the legs, and the robot walked along
like an animal.  Manipulation arms also could drop from the
bottom of each robot, or extend out from the top.

    They were not very appealing at first sight, but to move
around the cluttered living quarter they had to retract their
wheels, and had a tendency to waddle when they walked, which
Jason and Dalton always found amusing.  Sometimes they would set
up an obstacle course of clothes, and dirty food trays to see how
the robots would handle the challenge.  Whenever the little
robots found passage impossible, they would extend a robot arm,
and begin flinging the clothes and trays, this way and that, out
of their way.  Jason and Dalton would fall about the place
laughing their heads off at the comic scene of the robots
angrily, it seemed, plowing through their debris.

    But now all the debris would have to go, and fast!  There
was not much time until his rendezvous with Ethera at the air
lock of the colony ship.

    After the robots had picked up, he set them to scrubbing
everything so the room would smell as clean as it looked.  He
next pulled open a special drawer and pulled forth various
romantic implements:  Candles, a cooling stand for wine, assorted
candies and treats, an antique digital-disk player with some
ancient but appealing musical disks, and other odds and ends,
including a large pink feather which he left out of sight but in
a handy location.

    Next, he went into the cargo bay, and searched through his
liquor locker until he found an ancient bottle of wine he thought
would suit Ethera's haughty taste.  On impulse, he grabbed a
hand-held carbonizer, and jabbed its tiny needle down through the
bottle's old-fashioned cork and into the wine.  He set the
carbonizer to medium effervescence, then pressed the activation
button.  The carbonizer extended a small sensor up to the cork to
detect for leaks, and automatically stop the carbon dioxide
injection process if it detected that the cork could hold no more
pressure.  After a short while, the carbonizer signaled
carbonization had been completed, and also, to Jason's
satisfaction, displayed a favorable quality index based on its
analysis of the wine molecules emitted from the cork.  It also
reported an alcohol contents of 13.5% exactly.  Jason grinned in
anticipation of a merry evening.

    Back in the living quarter he placed the bottle of wine in
the cooling stand, and pulled off the tab of the cooling collar
located around the neck of the bottle, activating the bottles

self-cooling feature.  Through some obscure but harmless chemical
process, the collar would cool the wine, and keep it that way for
hours.  Next, he draped a little towel over the bottle like he'd
seen in movies.  He did not know why they did this, but it looked
apropos.  Whoops!  He rearranged the towel so that the name of
the Infinity City Space Port Hotel was no longer showing.

    When everything in the living quarter was in readiness, he
went back to the cargo hold of the sailship, pulled out a
spacesuit that would fit Ethera, pulled out a spacebike for her,
and then towed them back over to the colony ship.  Leaving
everything stowed in the air lock, he dined in the mess-hall that
night as usual.  Dalton had winked at him and left early!  Jason
knew where he was probably going.  He felt happy for his young
chum.  Unbeknownst to Jason, this was also the very same evening
of the first romantic encounter between Dalton and Monique.

    At the appointed time, Jason went up to the nose cone to
wait for Ethera.  She was late.  He waited and waited growing
anxious.  PF24 reported that she was still at home.  Finally,
when Jason was about to return to the sailship in disgust, she
came springing up the low-gravity axis tunnelway, her light brown
hair swinging back and forth.  She was wearing a jaunty yellow
sweater.  It was very tight, revealing her gender in a striking
way.  Her trousers were a dark gray.  And, she was barefoot!  NO,
DELECTABLE THOSE LITTLE TOES...  "Hi, Jason," she said in a low
voice, thick with meaning.  "Do you come here often?"

    "Yes," he played along.  "Some of the most beautiful women
of the Galaxy happen by here!"  She smiled at him.  He helped her
into her spacesuit, and spent an inordinate amount of time
smoothing out all the wrinkles.  She did not mind at all.  She
was hungry for YOUNG male attention!  The PILL OF LIFE kept Jason
young-looking at a physical age of less than 25-years-old, though
at this time his calendar age was a lecherous 46.  By some
genetic quirk, the PILL would always keep Jason's heart and
attitude the same as a young man in his early twenties, often to
his misfortune.

    They mounted the spacebikes, and waited for the air lock to
finish its cycle, and open the outer door.  Through their helmet
radios Jason heard Ethera squeal in excited anticipation.  He
looked over at her and smiled through the faceplate of the
helmet.  Her sparkling hazel eyes were wildly ablaze.  He winked
one of his own bright blue eyes at her.  She blew him a kiss.
Jason's head swam at the anticipation of what a pleasurable
evening was in store!

    The air lock opened, and Jason commanded his ship's computer
to guide their spacebikes safely across.  Ethera gasped as they
left the air lock, and the great emptiness of velvety black,
star-flooded inter-Galactic space surrounded them.  She commented
how quiet it was.  Jason suggested that perhaps they were just
the two to liven the old Galaxy up that evening.  Ethera laughed
merrily.  Jason ordered the computer to move them along at top

    As they neared the sailship, the computer switched off the
gravitonically induced artificial gravity field so that they
could easily enter.  After they entered the air lock of the
sailship, the computer slowly re-enabled artificial gravity and
they floated down to the floor of the air lock.  The outer door
closed, and Jason stowed the spacebikes while air was pumped in.
The inner door of the air lock finally opened.

    He brought her aboard his sailship, and removed her
spacesuit.  She looked around at all the equipment and storage
containers about the cargo hold, and wrinkled her nose in
disgust.  "Jason," she asked suspiciously, "is this the REAR

    "Uh, it's the only entrance, Ethera.  Except for a couple of
emergency 'locks.  I'm afraid this is not a fancy yacht."  MENTAL
rescue ship.  It's fast, though!  We can go thousands of times
the speed of light!"

    "Oh, that would be exciting."  She smiled, and took his arm
in both of hers.  "Jason!  Take me away from all that!"  She
gestured back toward the colony ship with her other arm.  "Whisk
me away across the stars!  Take me to the far worlds, and show me
the wonders of the Galaxy!"

    "First, let me show you a few wonders right here aboard
my... our little sailship."  He smiled in a debonair fashion,
while giving her an intimate caress that brought a rewarding
flush to her cheeks.

    He led her through the door to the central chamber.  He said
"Shh!" motioning to the other doors to the empty workshop and
software sanctum, and whispered, "Everyone's asleep!  Let's go up
to the pilot room to see if the Captain's there.  Be really nice!
He has a terrible temper!...  Computer, raise the elevator to the
pilot room."  The floor began moving upward.

    The Captain!  Her heart began beating rapidly at the thought
of some grumpy old Captain demanding that Jason explain what a
FEMALE was doing on board.

    The hatch in the floor of the pilot room slid open, with
barely enough room for the two to squeeze through.  Jason was
forced to hold her tightly against him.  What an enticing scent
she had worn this evening!

    Ethera was excited by every touch from Jason.  As he held
her close, she experienced the intimate smell of a man for the
first time.  Jason used deodorant but seldom wore colognes.  This
night, Ethera hungrily breathed deep of the essential HIM.  Her
hunger grew stronger...

    Jason looked around the pilot room.  "Oh, what a shame, he's
not here.  Well, old men need their sleep.  Would you like to sit
in the pilot chair?"

    "Oh, could I?!"  He led her over and she sat down, marveling
at all the complex lights and dials and controls.  She looked up
through the transparent dome and gasped as she saw millions of
burning little stars.  "I haven't seen real stars since I was
just a little girl!  And, there's our colony ship.  It's so big!
This is quite romantic, Jason.  Do you take all the girls up

    "Ethera, never before in my life have I experienced such
subtle grace and ultimate beauty.  I am inspired to break any
rule, tread any forbidden ground, even go where no man has gone
before for you!  I think tonight that I have found a queen fit to
rule all those stars above!"

    She noted that he had not answered her question.  But his
way with words left her tingling with anticipation.  As she
continued marveling at the stars, she felt his firm hands begin

gently massaging her upper arms and shoulders.  OH, WHAT AN
EXQUISITE FEELING!  Then he lightly and slowly touched her neck.
"Mmmm!" she said out loud.  She took his hand in hers.  It was so
big!  Would it be always gentle?  She kissed his hand, looked up
at him, and batted her eyelids a few times.

    Jason could barely control himself.  This girl was overdue
for love!  But, just as he was about to do something very
naughty, she spied Dalton's exotic-looking virtual-reality
helmet.  "Oh!  What is that?", she asked curiously.

He took a deep, calming breath.  "That's just a virtual-reality

    "A virtual-reality transceiver?  Why, I've never seen one
like that before.  The ones I've seen on the HEAVEN all look like
special sunglasses.  That one would fit completely over someone's
head!"  She rose from the chair, and went over to pick it up.

    Jason had learned to be endlessly patient in the game of
love.  He would wait.  And, he bet that if she sensed that he was
losing interest, she would warm right back up.  He gestured
toward the helmet, and began confidently, "Oh, virtual-reality is
one of my passions.  That's a very sophisticated model that fits
over your head so that you cannot see or hear anything around
you.  Without any distractions, the virtual-reality becomes
almost real.  Our computer can simulate anything!"

    She looked over at him with a sly grin.  "Do you have
another helmet?"

    WHAT WAS ON HER MIND?!  "Yes..", he said slowly.  "Why?"

    "Let's each put one on, and jump into virtual-reality

    Jason gulped.  HMM.  THIS GIRL WAS ADVENTUROUS.  This, he
had never encountered before.  But, HE was an Infinity City
Adventurer!  If she was willing to try this, so was he.  "Okay,
stand up."  She did.  "After I put this on, you will see and hear
nothing for a few moments until I have the computer start the V-
R."  She nodded.  He took the helmet she was holding and slipped
it over her head, positioned it, and strapped it on.  He heard
the air begin cycling through the helmet.  Jason gave her a
little pinch, and she slapped his hand away.  Then, he had a
naughty idea!  (They often occurred to him in situations like

    He stepped back, and said, "Computer, transmit the pilot
room image into the virtual-reality, but filter me out of it.
Also, interface the audio between the pilot room and the virtual-

    "Acknowledged," the computer said.

    "Jason!"  He heard Ethera's high, sweet voice from the
computer.  "Is the helmet still on me?  It's like it suddenly
just went clear.  I can see the pilot room again."  Her head
turned back and forth as she looked this way and that in the
virtual-reality.  "Where did you go?"  She reached up with her
hand to touch her face, but was blocked by the helmet.  "The
helmet is still there!  This is fun!  Where ARE you?...  OH!!
Hey, who did that?  Oh!  OH!  Ohhhh...  Mmmm!  Oh, Jason, you're
despicable!  Now you behave, and put on your helmet, too!"

    He was extremely pleased with himself for pulling off such a
mischievous little trick.  As he reluctantly brought out the
other helmet, he ordered, "Computer, full audio-visual interface
between the pilot room and the virtual-reality for both of these
helmets, but replace the image of the helmets with our faces."
He tugged the helmet on, and adjusted the eye, ear, and mouth
covers.  His eyes were tightly closed.  He took a few deep
breaths to calm his nervousness then opened his eyes.  Standing
before him, he saw HIMSELF but with a young, sexy female body!
The computer had mistakenly switched their faces when it filtered
out the image of the helmets!

    Ethera burst out laughing.  "It's me!  You have MY face on
YOUR body!  Is that what I'd look like as a man?"  She made a
disgusted face, and then saw this expression immediately
displayed on her head sitting on Jason's body.  "Jason, stop
this!  I don't like it!"  As she talked, her head on his body
spoke the words."

    "Sorry...", he apologized.  His own face atop her body was
grinning widely.  Jason stuck out his tongue, and image of his
face before him did the same.  "Computer, you switched the wrong
heads!  Swap them, and never do that again."  The computer

    Ah!  Now he was finally looking at her head.  "Now what?",
he asked.

    "Use your imagination!  Can I talk to your computer?"

    "Yeah, sure.  Computer, do to the virtual-reality whatever
she says.  Go ahead and make any change.  You know how to do V-R,

    "Of course!  It was INVENTED on Conover.  But I want YOU to
go first!"

    "Me?!  Why me?"

    "Because I want to see this PASSION you have for virtual-
reality."  She pouted irresistibly.  "Won't you show me your
PASSION, Jason?"

DISPLAYED.  AT LEAST FOR NOW.  Then, he had an idea!  "Computer,
replace the image of the pilot room with the image of a south-
pacific desert island on the ecology planet Earth.  Make it only
five meters in diameter, with a single palm tree!"

    The pilot room darkened slowly away.  A bright sky-blue dome
appeared above them, as the computer built the requested image.
It expanded rapidly in detail and size into the sky and tree
above, dark blue ocean all around, and yellow sand beneath their
feet.  Jason wondered where it was getting the picture from.  He
really had not known whether or not the computer would be able to
do this.  It must be referencing shows from the atomically-stored
entertainment library.

    It was a perfect image down to every three-dimensional
detail, as far as their imperfect eyes and brain could tell.
They were now standing on a deserted island.  Ethera looked
around.  "Desert island, huh, Jason?  I think I know what's on
your mind!  But, you aren't dressed the part.  Computer, replace
Jason's uniform with a Tarzan leopard skin!"

    TARZAN?  WHAT'S THAT?!  Well, the computer knew, for Jason
looked down, and discovered himself clothed in animal hide like a
primitive caveman.  "Computer, put some hair on my chest, would
you please."  Up it grew.

    "Me Jane, you Tarzan!", she said with a husky voice.  "Turn
around, Jason.  I want to see how your skin fits."  He willingly
complied and turned slowly, flexing various muscles.

    She began giggling.  "Jason!  That is QUITE a creative

    HOW COULD SHE SEE THAT TATTOO?!  He looked behind himself.
The computer had not drawn the back of his leopard skin!
Embarrassed, he quickly faced her again.  He complained, "Hey,
you aren't dressed right either!  Computer, replace Ethera's
clothing with...  a G-string bikini!"

    The computer responded, "Stand-by.  Requesting medical scan
files from PF24..."

    "Computer!  Cancel that last request!", countermanded
Ethera.  "No peeking, Jason!"

    "Okay, okay.  Hey, enough of this kid-stuff.  I just happen
to have a bottle of extremely old sparkling wine that's chilling
down in my quarters."  He turned his head and looked at her
sideways.  "Does your daddy let you drink, Ethera??"

    She flipped her head.  "I do whatever I want!", she said.

    "Would you care to try a glass?"

    She smiled, and looked at him.  She knew what this would
lead to.  It was an experience that she had been longing to try
for so long!  She let her eyes half-close in a seductive sort of
way.  "I'll have just one glass..."

    Jason removed the helmets, delicately took her hand, and led
to the hatchway in the floor.  They stepped down onto the
elevator platform below.  He held her close so that they would
once again fit through the hatchway.  "Take us down, elevator,"
he said.  He wrapped his arms tightly around her, looked happily
into her face, and squeezed her.  She herself reached around and
squeezed him provocatively.

    At the floor of the central chamber, they dismounted, and he
opened the door to his living quarter, and gestured for her to
enter.  She did so hesitantly.  WHAT KIND OF A ROOM WAS THIS?
THE BEATLES.  She loved the Beatles!  HAD SHE TOLD HIM THAT

    Jason lifted two glasses from the wine cooler stand, set
them on a nearby table, and pressed the open-button on the
bottle.  The cork popped out, and ricocheted around the room.

    Ethera exclaimed, "Jason!  That frightened me!"

    "Oh, my goodness!  Come, sit down here on the sofa and calm
yourself."  He poured two glasses of wine, then joined her on the

    She talked about one of her favorite subjects:  The ancient
musical  group, the Beatles.  She talked of Beatle songs, and he
rattled off the standard ancient Beatle trivia which Beatle fans
like her always loved to hear (he had recently quickly learned
all this from his ship's atomic memory):  Paul was dead and had
been replaced by a Canadian prime minister.  John had married an
Indian guru named Yo.  Ringo was the only rockstar who ever lived
long enough to have grandchildren.  George had been cryogenically
frozen to await rebirth at the end of time...

    They talked about the people of the colony ship then
switched to one of Ethera's other favorite subjects:  The gifts
of gold jewelry Jason had given her.  She noticed a ring he was
wearing -- it was gold!  She asked if she could try it on.  Jason
pulled it off and gave it to her.  It was his Militia Guard
Academy graduation ring.  Naturally, it was too big for her
fingers, however she enjoyed fondling it, her eyes glittering as
she beheld the luster of the thick band and jewels.  The crest of
the Militia Guard was in raised relief with Jason's name etched
around the edge.  She exclaimed, "This is gorgeous!  It's better
than anything you've given me so far!"  She batted her long dark
eyelashes at him and pouted sensuously.  "Jason, can I -- can I
please have it?  I'd be ever so grateful!"

    Jason sensed an important turning point and knew it was
essential to answer in the affirmative -- it was just a
graduation ring anyway;  he could make another back on Infinity
City.  It held no special meaning for him...  Well, not much, at
least.  So he lied:  "Ethera!  This is one of my most prized
possessions!  It's very special to me.  I could never part with

    "Oh, PLEASE, Jason!  It is simply gorgeous!  Aren't I
special to you, too??"

    Jason looked deeply into her alluring eyes.  "Yes, very

    The wine was excellent.  "Oh, dear, Ethera!"  Jason
exclaimed in mock surprise.  "Why, your glass is empty.  What a
pity you decided to have but one glassful.  It is such an amusing
vintage!  I believe I shall have another."

    As he poured another for himself, she watched with a
calculating look, then announced, "Well, one more glass won't
hurt anything..."

    A short while later, the empty glasses fell harmlessly to
the bearskin rug at there feet.  They were locked in a passionate
embrace.  Ethera was being kissed by a man she had known for only
a few weeks.  What WOULD her father think.  HE WOULD BE FURIOUS,
IF HE KNEW!  She laughed on the inside, and decided to abandon
all restraint this night.  How often did Adventurers from the
famous Infinity City come along.  There was actually some story
about one, just before the colony ship took off.  Ah, but her
attention became captivated by her amazing host for the evening.
He was thrilling!  What WAS he up to now?  Oh!  There was
obviously no stopping him now!  She lay back down on the couch.

    Jason knew that he would be the first Adventurer to discover
the secrets of this little whirlpool below him.  He geared
himself down and treated her gently, letting her set the pace.
She was completely without inhibition, though, and willing to
experience all he was bursting to show her.

    What an evening!  She was amazed that such playfulness could
go on hour after hour.

    At one point, during a breather, when his mind was drifting,
Jason worried that Dalton would arrive at any time.  But, Dalton
was quiet as a mouse, never once awakening Jason when he came
home late from one of his OWN rendezvous' with Monique.  Certain
activities soon drove these thoughts clean away.

    Finally, they both had exhausted each other.  She thought he
was fantastic!  Beyond what she ever imagined a man would be.
She was finally in love!

    But, she had noticed no sign of other crew members, not even
the Militia Captain One, whom her father had spoken with.  Jason,
the wine having loosened his tongue told her the truth.  He and
Dalton were the only crew.  But, they were not pirates.  They
were Rescuers.  He made her swear never to reveal this.  She was
confused but agreed.

    She thought:  An Adventurer from Infinity City who flew
about the Galaxy rescuing disabled space ships!  The colony ship
was so boring.  How exciting and romantic it would be to
accompany this amazing man!  Touring the Galaxy at the speed of
an Infinity City sailship!  To see Infinity City itself!  Inside
a black hole!  And every night, to have this incredible man all
to herself.  He had been so WONDERFUL to her.  He was so
experienced, knew so many things to do, and how to do them just

    She decided that she wanted to go with him, and told him so.
But then, strangely, he stalled and stammered, telling her that
he would decide later.  He seemed suddenly now a little distant
somehow.  Had she done something wrong?

    Finally, very late, he took her back across to the colony
ship, and escorted her home.  He was polite, but was still
different somehow.

    And then, in the next few days, he did not come by to see
her at all.  At first she was bewildered.

    She asked the computer PF24 where Jason was one day, and
went to see him.  He was in the Control Room of the great ship.
She would have to go through the axis tunnelway to get there.
Her father would not like it.  He did not even like it when she
left Colonist Segment #1 to visit Colonist Segment #3 which,
unlike the barbarism of #2, was peaceful and well ordered.
However, her father had informed her that the laborers comprising
Colonist Segment #3 were "beneath her station."  She passed by
the hatch to Colonist Segment #3 wondering what they were like.

    She found Jason in the Control Room, wearing a light brown
coverall,  sitting at a keyboard console, staring at a viewscreen
with all sorts of incomprehensible moving numbers and symbols on
it.  He turned around, looked at her for a moment, then looked
back to the screen.  Then he turned back to her, smiled slightly,
and greeted her, "Hello, Ethera.  What, uh, brings you down

    She walked over and put her hand on the back of his neck.
"I came to visit you Jason, darling."  She stroked the crazy
waves of his light colored hair.  It was free and wild just like
him, she thought.

    "Oh, well," and he chuckled lamely.  "It's not very exciting
down here.  I'm the only one around.  Just working on
reconfiguring the astronavigation console's dynamic memory.  It
got erased during the Accident, and PF24 doesn't know how to
initialize it..."

    PF24 interrupted sarcastically from a nearby speaker, "The
HUMANS that set me up back on Conover neglected to provide me
with the correct version of the program."

    "Uh, fine," Jason responded.

    With her other hand Ethera stroked Jason's firm jaw.  It was
rough from not shaving that morning.  She had been thinking of
nothing but traveling away with him aboard his wonderful
sailship.  "Do you remember our night together, Jason?"

    "Yes, it was... nice."  He turned back to his computer
console, and typed in some commands.

    She dropped her hands to her sides.  "Jason," she whispered.
"I'd like to come over to the sailship again."

    He turned slightly, looked at her quickly out of the corners
of his handsome blue eyes, then turned back to the screen.
Without looking at her again, he said, "Umm, your father's
getting suspicious.  I think we better cool things for a while.
I'll, uh, call you... sometime."

    Suddenly, she could not think of anything to say.  She
slowly turned, and quietly went to the door of the Control Room.
She turned, with her hand on the doorway, to look back.  She
noticed on her wrist several of the gold bracelets he had made.
What skill he had!  They were so beautiful.  He sat as before
with his broad back to her, ferociously typing away at the
computer console.  She blinked several times, lowered her head,
then left.  She drifted back up the axis tunnelway feeling an
aching emptiness deep inside.

    She saw him around the ship from time to time after that,
but he no longer had any time for her.  He always had some excuse
why he could not get together with her.  She soon felt completely
heartbroken.  Again and again she tried to get his attention.
But what had been between them was definitely over, though it had
barely begun.  Her dreams of him sweeping her away from her
horridly boring life aboard the colony ship were broken.  Then
her feelings turned into something else...


    With their job almost completed, the colony ship would be
ready to move on as soon as a crew could be found to man the
control room.  Excarver Durdaine's potential crew had completed
their training in Colonist Segment #1.  However, responding to
Jason's constant apprehension regarding the whole project of a
'green' crew piloting the complex colony ship, Durdaine had begun
to vacillate.  Dalton had witnessed a heated exchange between the
frustrated Durdaine and Jason in which Durdaine had weakly
suggested that PF24 could help out his new crew.  But Jason
pointed out that the sophisticated computer was definitely
beginning to suffer from cyberlogical paranoia.  It was convinced
it was superior to humans in EVERY respect and that there were
gravitonic whirlpools lurking everywhere around the Galaxy.
Jason assured Durdaine that he and Dalton would immediately sail

to Conover to see if there was another colony ship with crew
members to spare, or if not, to obtain authorization and funding
to outfit several personnel transports from Infinity City to
transport the colonists back to Conover or on to the new world.
Durdaine was too impatient to proceed, and agreed to nothing.

    Dalton sensed the relationship between the two was strained,
and was confused as to the reason.  They had repaired the
disabled colony ship.  Why wasn't Durdaine rejoicing?

    There was no more work for Dalton to do.  Dalton spent an
entire day with Monique.  That evening, in the magic garden, with
no one else around, they made love again.  But, this time, there
was an underlying sadness because each worried this would be the
last time.

    That next day, Jason completed all remaining repairs,
however minor.  It was time for Jason and Dalton to return to
their 'Militia' ship.  They would then fly back to CONOVER and
try to bring back a skeleton crew to pilot the colony ship.

    A final banquet was held in the hall where they had been
originally welcomed, the same hall Dalton had passed through to
the garden countless times.  Jason was presented a fantastic
award.  A giant replica of the colony ship.  In solid gold
weighing many kilograms.  Jason wondered where all this gold had
come from.  He asked Excarver who told him coldly the gold was
the accumulation of all the gifts to his daughter that she could
not accept.  An icy look from Ethera had confirmed the truth of

    Jason was appalled and inwardly enraged, but kept his cool.
He was too worried that Ethera would tell her father that the
sailship was not really a Militia Guard ship.  Jason told
Durdaine that he and Dalton needed their sleep because tomorrow
they would be setting up the tricky program into PF24 to finally
finish the trip to the new world as soon as at least a skeleton
crew could be assembled.  Durdaine took Jason aside and tersely
announced that this saved him the trouble of asking Dalton not to
see Monique anymore.  He had been receiving reports about Dalton
and Monique.  Reports he did not like.  Dalton was to stay away
from her.  The colonists had a strict policy against inter-
breeding with outsiders.  Durdaine looked significantly at Jason

    Dalton and Jason, morosely carrying the gold statue, left
directly after the dinner for the sailship.  Dalton sensed that
the situation was going very bad.  On their way up the axis
tunnelway toward the nose cone, Jason repeated Durdaine's
directive regarding Monique.

    Dalton was crushed.  He told Jason that he wanted to see
Monique just once more.  Jason told him to make it damn quick,
just a simple good-bye.

    Jason headed back to the sailship.  Dalton went to Monique's
living quarters.

    Her austere middle-aged foster-father answered the door.  He
had black hair that was slicked back into a short pony tail.
With small, dark eyes he looked down his long nose at Dalton.  He
was clearly no longer happy to see the young man anymore.  What
had changed his attitude?  Dalton gulped, but stood tall, and
asked to see Monique.  Monique's father looked back at his wife
sitting on a sofa before an entertainment player.  She wore a
great pile of bushy hair tinted lemon yellow.  Monique's mother,

also middle-aged, rolled her pale blue eyes, and directed her
husband to have the boy wait at the door since he would not be
staying long.  Monique's father coldly asked Dalton to wait.
Dalton now felt extremely uncomfortable.  He cleared his throat,
and tried to breathe deeply.  Then, Monique's father turned and
left the room to summon Monique.  After a moment, Monique's
mother followed her husband, and also left.  Dalton stood
awkwardly in the doorway alone.

    Like a welcome sunrise, Monique came hurriedly, obviously
concerned with her parents attitude, and invited him in.  Her
parents remained out of sight, elsewhere in the apartments.  They
had been growing suspicious.  Dalton held her hands as he told
her about Durdaine's command.  The thought of suddenly, maybe
indefinitely being away from him broke her heart.  She begged him
to take her along.  Though he longed to, he told her he could
not.  They both understood that this may be good-bye, and
embraced tenderly.  They did not want to part and Dalton
lingered, feeling like he was on the edge of a steep cliff.

    Jason paced around the pilot room.  He grew impatient and
asked the PF24 where Dalton was.  The PF24 reported scanning
Dalton in Monique's living quarters.  Jason became exasperated,
and went to fetch Dalton.  On his way, from a very secret
compartment in the living quarter, he took forth an old-fashioned
hand-gun, just in case things got out of hand.  He put on his
spacesuit, jumped on the spacebike, and left for the colony ship.

    Dalton had finally just turned to leave his precious Monique
when there came a startlingly loud knock from the door.  Before
Monique could move, her father and mother both entered the room
as if they had been waiting.  Monique's father followed by her
mother marched right past Dalton and Monique, who were standing
together, as if they did not see them, and opened the door.
There stood Excarver Durdaine, cold gray eyes set in his craggy
old face frowning down at Dalton, bushy eyebrows set in an angry
line, his wild graying black hair above.  He entered the front
room, and stiffly greeted Monique's parents.  Then, with his
hands on his hips glared back down at Dalton, and said coldly.
"And just what are YOU doing here?"

    Dalton looked up at the glaring Durdaine towering above him.
Monique's parents stood beside him, arms folded, also looking
down at him coldly.  The tension now in the room made Dalton long
to be back safely aboard the sailship...  WITH MONIQUE!  Dalton
brushed his dark hair away from his eyes, put on his best
innocent-looking face, smiled, and replied.  "Well, I've just
come to see Monique, and..."

    But Durdaine interrupted explosively, "You Infinity City
boys just think you can have free run of this ship!  But it's not
going to continue!"

    Dalton's eyes grew wide, he held his hands before him, and
pleaded, "But, sir, I..."

    Durdaine thrust an accusing finger in Dalton's face, and
again interrupted, "I know exactly what you've been up to!  I
know you've been out with this poor innocent young child again
and again."  Monique's parents, still frowning down at Dalton

with disapproval, nodded while murmuring agreement at this point.
Durdaine's eyes narrowed, "Don't give me that innocent look!"

    Dalton looked down at the floor wilting before the wall of
adult disapproval.  He put his hands behind his back.  "Sir, I am
here just to say good-bye."

    Durdaine threw his head back.  "Ha!", he barked, and looked
back at Dalton.  "A likely story.  I know EXACTLY what you're
after!  You Infinity City types all want the same thing.  You're
just after..."

    Monique, shocked and offended by Excarver Durdaine's tirade,
finally found her tongue and interrupted in an even voice,
"Excuse me, Mr. Durdaine.  It is not what you think."

    "Monique, stay out of this," he father said crisply.

    He mother nodded her head in the direction of the hallway.
"Just go to your room, dear.  We'll take care of this for you."

    Monique looked from one cold, disapproving face to another.
Were these the people who would be running her life forever
aboard this ship?  What a dreadful future was in store for her
then.  No Dalton.  Just his sweet memory, and these sour three
who cared nothing for her feelings.

    Dalton, seeing the look on Monique's sweet young face, now
downturned, stroked her arm to comfort her.

    Excarver Durdaine snorted in disgust at their affection.
His cold old mind viewing it only as another example of their
teenage lust.  He sneered, "You're just as vile and deceitful as
that Jason."

    Dalton looked up sharply at the old man.  What a horrid
thing to say!  Dalton had finally had enough of this.  Standing
as straight and tall as he could, he said, "Sir, you should not
talk that way.  Jason has done so much for you!"

    Durdaine's eyes grew wide, and he began nodding his head
vigorously, his gray and black hair flying wildly about.  "Yes!
Yes!  He most certainly has, hasn't he?"  Durdaine now froze.  He
stood for several moments just glaring furiously at Dalton.  He
bared his gnarled old yellow teeth in a snarl, whipped an arm up
pointing toward the open door, and growled, "Now you get out!
Get back to that sailship of yours, and don't come back!"
Durdaine was shaking with anger.  "And you are not to see Monique

    Dalton could stand this no more.  These people were
horrible!  He leaned over quickly to Monique, and whispered "THE
GARDEN!"  Then he slipped past Durdaine, and fled the apartment.
Dalton turned down the nearest hallway, and ran off heading for
the garden.

    Durdaine remained behind to tell Monique's parents to keep
an eye on her.  Monique stood there in awe as her parents and
Excarver Durdaine all three discussed the situation regarding
Dalton and herself as if she was not even there.  She silently
left the frontroom, and entered a hallway as if heading for her
room.  Instead, she quietly opened the door to the utility room,
silently closed it behind her, and left the apartments through
the backdoor at the back of the utility room.

    A moment later, Jason entered the corridor, walked up to
Monique's apartment, having followed PF24's instructions, and
knocked.  Monique's father answered the door, and there was
Durdaine standing behind.

    They invited him in but no one sat down.  Jason stood tall
and square with his arms folded.  Durdaine began lecturing him
with the importance of Conovarian genetic purity, and how
important it was not to introduce any defective recessive genes.
Durdaine informed him that Conovarian genes were so pure that
cousins could marry with no risk to their offspring.  Even
brothers and sisters could mate without causing genetic defects.
Few brothers married their sisters, of course, but if a man or
woman became sterile for non-genetic reasons, through disease or
accident, it had become customary for one of their siblings to
artificially provide the required egg or sperms, thus keeping the
offspring looking more like the parents than if strangers had
been used.

    With an extreme effort of self-control Jason patiently
listened to Durdaine's lecturing, then politely informed them all
that he had actually been summoned back to the sailship to make
ready for departure, and had simply dropped by Monique's
residence to find Dalton.

    Durdaine informed him coldly that he had ordered Dalton back
to the sailship, and personally forbidden him to ever see Monique

    Jason looked narrowly at Excarver Durdaine.  The room grew
quiet as the other three noticed the smoldering look on Jason's
face as he fixed each one with his steely blue-eyed stare.  Jason
told himself that he must keep his relations with the colonists
civil if he hoped to gain financial reward from this rescue
mission.  He tensely excused himself, and beat a hasty retreat.


    Monique met her dear Dalton in the garden.  There he was,
standing dejectedly beside one of the flower wells below a tree.
Would this be the last time she would ever see him?  He wore a
loose white shirt and light brown trousers.  He had not cut his
dark hair during his time repairing the colony ship which gave
him a moppy look.  He stood with his usual straight posture
looking down into the flower well.  She had learned that great
inner turmoil could be brewing inside her young lover's short,
lean frame even though on the outside he looked calm and serene.
She walked over to him, and he reached out and held her hand.

    "Nobody wants us to be together, Monique," he said sadly and
quietly, still not looking at her.  He was very hurt that after
all the work he and Jason had done for these people, they had
turned on him like this.  Again and again, life had betrayed him.
His mother had uncaringly left him as an infant.  Katz had
callously dumped him out onto the awful streets of Infinity City.
Was there NO justice for him?

    Sensing his inner pain, Monique caressed his soft cheek.  He
was so vulnerable, an easy victim of the powerful adults.  "They
were very unfair to us," she said with conviction.  "Especially

to YOU, Dalton.  They have no right to tell us what to do."  She
felt deeply betrayed by the reaction of her foster parents.
Dalton was a very sensitive and caring person.  In spite of all
he had been through during his short life, he still wanted
nothing more than to help other people.  She loved him for his
kind and gentle heart.

    They discussed the incredible reaction of her foster parents
and Excarver Durdaine, the miserable situation they were now in,
and the bleak, empty future awaiting them.

    With a tear in her eye, Monique looked into Dalton's loving
face.  "Dalton, we're about to lose each other forever.  I can't
bear to see you go!"

    The sadness beginning to contort her sweet face wrenched at
Dalton's heart, making his own eyes grow moist.  "Oh, Monique!
Why did we ever meet?  Life without you will be nothing."

    They embraced sadly, holding each other tenderly.  They
gently caressed each other, each trying to make the other feel

    Monique suddenly pulled away, and looking intently into
Dalton's face said, "You MUST take me with you aboard your
sailship!  Let's escape!"

    He looked down.  He could not face her.  "Monique, I cannot.
They... they won't permit you onboard."  He balled his fists in
frustration, hating himself for having to lie to her.  It was
JASON who would not permit a girl onboard the sailship.  His
reaction when he had caught Dalton looking at Monique in virtual-
reality had proved that out.

    "Because I'm a girl?"  Monique informed Dalton that all the
colony ship was buzzing about Ethera Durdaine's affair with Jason
ABOARD THE SAILSHIP.  Dalton was shocked.  He had not known that
Jason had brought any colonist over to the sailship.  Jason had
irrationally harassed him about being interested in Monique while
he was secretly busy with Ethera aboard the sailship!  How
unfair!  Monique had asked repeatedly to visit the wonderful
sailship from Infinity City.  But Dalton had always declined
citing 'Militia Guard regulations,'  secretly because he had
thought it would have made Jason angry.  And now to learn that
Jason had himself brought over a girl!  That was just not fair at

    Suddenly, Dalton changed his mind.  With a burst of passion
he took both of Monique's soft, petite hands in his, looked into
her deep dark blue trusting eyes, and said, "Monique!  Let me
take you away from the colony ship!  Come with me aboard the
sailship!  We'll be free to do whatever we want!  If it's okay
for Jason to bring over a girl, then it will be okay for me,

    He had changed his mind!  She was amazed and surprised, but
she quickly accepted, though wondering what the officers aboard
the Militia sailship would think.  Dalton would handle it, she
confidently decided.  Oh, to go with him!  She had been so afraid
that she would never see him again.  And now to escape from the
colony ship with him!  It was like a dream.  Monique gave him a
kiss for luck, and they embraced warmly, holding each other
tightly.  Then Dalton gently pulled away.  He took her hand
warmly in his.  With an excited look in his dark eyes he

whispered, "Come!", and led her out of the garden, for the last

    They fled to the nose cone of the colony ship.  No one was
there.  They entered the air lock that he and Jason had been
using.  Dalton needed a spacesuit and spacebike for Monique.  It
was late, and Jason, he assumed, was over in the sailship,
probably even waiting up for him to get back.

    But Monique needed a spacesuit to get across to the
sailship!  Then Dalton remembered something.  He quickly jerked
opened the storage cabinet where he kept his own spacesuit and
spacebike.  There at the back was a second spacesuit and
spacebike set!  Dalton had noticed their mysterious appearance a
few days ago, and had assumed they were just spares Jason had
brought over.  Busy with final repairs and Monique, he had not
bothered to ask Jason about them.  He pulled out the spacesuit,
and upon closer examination discovered to his surprise that it
was cut for a woman!  Dalton thought of his own suit also cut for
woman, only fitting him due to his small stature, and Jason's
'suit, which was far larger and bulkier.  He suddenly had an
almost overwhelming feeling of inadequacy, and began having self-
doubts about their plan.  What was he doing, anyway?!  NO!, he
raged inwardly.  I'LL SHOW THEM!  WE'LL SHOW THEM!  THEY CAN'T

    Sensing her love's inner-turmoil, Monique stroked Dalton's
cheek.  Their eyes met, and each knew the other's thoughts.  They
embraced tightly, desperately, and clung together for a few
moments.  Then Dalton gently disengaged Monique, gave her a kiss,
and helped her slip into the spacesuit.  He then slipped into
his.  He strapped Monique aboard the other 'bike, and strapped
himself onto his.  Through the spacesuit helmet crystal
faceplate, Dalton noticed Monique staring at him apprehensively.
He winked, turned on his radio, and instructed the computer to
link his radio to Monique's.  He spoke soothingly to her, and
explained how the spacebikes worked and what they were about to
do.  After he convinced her it was all completely safe and
computer controlled, she smiled, and said she was ready.  Dalton
told the computer to cycle the air lock.

    Not knowing that Jason's suit and spacebike were stored in
one of the other cabinets of the air lock, and Jason was actually
onboard the colony ship looking for him, Dalton assumed Jason was
over onboard the sailship, maybe even asleep in the living
quarter.  As soon as he and Monique were aboard, Dalton assumed
the three of them would just sail away.  Jason would understand
why Monique was with him.  They would all sail around the Galaxy
together!  Three happy Adventurers!

    As the air pumped out, Monique touched the wall of the air
lock of the colony ship.  The colony ship had been her only home
all her life.  She would be leaving her foster parents behind
maybe forever.  Was she doing the right thing?  She looked at her
beloved Dalton sitting confidently astride his wonderful
spacebike.  She would follow him anywhere!

     Then, they left the colony ship, and headed for the
sailship.  Neither would ever set foot aboard the colony ship

    Jason arrived at the closed inner hatch of the colony ship
nose cone air lock just as Dalton and Monique, aboard their

spacebikes, were slowly jetting out through the outer hatchway.
Jason saw the indicator panel on the outside of the air lock
indicating the outer hatch was open.  Jason assumed this was
Dalton, and was relieved that he was finally heading back to the
sailship, though Jason had no idea Dalton was not alone.  He
pressed a button to open the inner hatch, then waited while the
outer air lock hatch closed, and it began cycling.  Finally, the
inner hatch swung open.

    Jason assumed this would be the last time he would leave the
colony ship.  He opened Dalton's storage cabinet to fetch the
spacesuit and spacebike, that Ethera had used.  He would bring
them along with him.  If only things had worked out with her.  If
only she hadn't wanted to go with him...  Her spacesuit and
spacebike were gone!

    He yanked open the cabinet with his own 'suit and 'bike, and
quickly began pulling on his suit, thinking to himself:  Ethera
must have gone over to the sailship!  She STILL wanted to go off
with him!  Couldn't really blame her of course, he smugly
thought.  Maybe it would not be so bad with her after all.  Just
the three of them, him, Ethera, and Dalton, sailing around the
Galaxy, raising hell in every port!  He grinned at the exciting

    Dalton and Monique arrived at the sailship, and cycled
through the air lock.  Dalton was getting panicky, knowing that
he was getting her in big trouble.  He nervously removed and
stowed their 'suits and 'bikes.  He could not bring her into the
living quarter, Jason would be in there asleep or eating.  He did
not want Jason to know that she was onboard until he had thought
out how to keep her there.  He brought her up to the pilot room,
avoiding the noisy elevator floor which would have alerted Jason.

    Dalton looked around the pilot room thinking hard.  He
glanced through the transparent dome overhead.  He saw someone
leaving the colony ship, coming toward the sailship!  He wildly
thought:  It must be Durdaine, or one of his guards.  They knew
he was kidnapping Monique, one of their colonists!  What if they
attacked the sailship!

    Monique saw a wild look spreading across Dalton's face.  She
looked off in the direction of his stare, and saw someone leaving
the colony ship on a spacebike.  She just assumed it was Jason
coming back after leaving her parents' apartment.  Dalton must be
nervous about telling him he had brought her aboard.  This made
her feel nervous, as well.

    Dalton told the computer to start the propulsion jets.  He
would move out farther away from the colony ship to get away from
the colonist coming over.  There was no program set up for the
computer, so Dalton jumped into the pilot chair, and activated
the manual controls.  They folded out from the arms.  He waited
for the propulsion system to warm up and complete its self-

    Monique asked what he was doing.  He told her he was keeping
her safe from whoever was flying over.  She began to grow
worried.  Why would she need to be kept safe from Jason?  She
asked him that.  He told her Jason was down below.  That was
Durdaine or someone come to take her away from him forever.  He
shouted at the computer not to communicate with anyone outside
the sailship.  His hands were on the controls.

    He told her they were not Militia Guard, or at least he was
not.  There was only two of them.  They were rescuers who had
come to rescue the colony ship.  But it was 80 light-years from
the new world, and even farther from CONOVER.  He could not let
them take her back or she would just grow old and die aboard the
colony ship.

    She did not understand all that was happening.  What was he
saying?!  He was sounding crazy!  His face was intense with
panic, his eyes darting all about but avoided her!  And he was
taking her away from the safety of the colony ship, from her
family!  She hissed, "Dalton, what are you doing?!"  But he
ignored her!  She grabbed at his arm to get his attention,

    The jets responded obediently to the control stick in
Dalton's hand, and swung around, firing at a wild angle, swinging
the sailship around sharply.  The delicate gravitonic sail
generating the sailship's artificial gravity was yanked to the
side, and several of its control lines tore loose.  Red
malfunction alerts began flashing across the control boards,
buzzers sounded loudly, and the computer began issuing all sorts
of dire warnings.  Gravity aboard the sailship quickly dwindled
and was gone.  The suddenly uncontrolled centrifugal force of the
spinning sailship threw Dalton and Monique upwards.  They both
crashed head first into the transparent dome over the pilot room.
As Dalton had lifted from the pilot seat, grabbing frantically to
get a grip on one of its arms, he had jostled the propulsion
control stick again, and now the sailship went jetting off, out
of control.

    The force of the spinning sailship caused a small drawer in
the pilot room to pop open, and a small audio tape came flying
out, falling upwards, coming to rest on the entangled unconscious
boy and girl.

    Jason watched from his spacebike in shock and confusion, and
then in growing horror as his sailship suddenly rotated over, and
then began to move off.  He caught a glimpse of the small forms
of Dalton and Monique crumpled and unmoving against the pilot
room dome as the sailship jetted away, rotating over and over.
He yelled for the sailship's computer to cut the jets, but it
would not respond because of Dalton's order not to communicate
with anyone outside the sailship.


    Jason smacked the manual control override of his spacebike,
grabbed the controls and swung the 'bike around, jetting back
toward the colony ship at top speed.  His thoughts were cool.  He
had to save them!  And, there was only one solution!

    The nose cone of the colony ship yawned before him, a black
pit surrounded by the barely visible gray bulk of the colony
ship, surrounded by the endless star field.  The nose cone lights
were out!  He had not needed them coming out because his sailship
computer was automatically guiding his spacebike.  He called for
the computer but was still cut off.  He called for the colony
ship computer PF24, but received no answer.  His helmet radio was
locked into the deadened sailship channel.

    As he rapidly approached nose one area, he could see the
little yellow inner-lights of the air lock he had left only a
short time before.  A very tiny target!  But what the hell...

    As the spacebike arrived at what he determined was the
halfway point between where he had turned around and the air
lock, he swung it around, and used its main jets to begin braking
his progress -- slowing down his accumulated speed.  Now
traveling backwards, he had to look over his shoulder to steer
his way in.  He tensely manipulating the steering jets.

    Though he was now slowing down, the little air lock
approached rapidly.  Too rapidly!  If he hit it too hard, he
would crash inside, maybe even break through its inner hatch
causing an explosive decompression of the entire axis tunnelway.
He concentrated with cool will-power.  His spacebike slowed.  The
air lock quickly grew and grew, suddenly engulfing him!  He was
inside and still moving!  He instinctively cut the jets at the
last split second praying he had slowed down enough, relaxing for
the inevitable crash against the inner door...

    But there was only a little bump as the spacebike, slowed to
a mere crawl, gently bounced against the inner door, and drifted,
in the very low artificial gravity, to the floor.  Jason, taking
a deep breath in relief, twisted around in his seat, and punched
the air lock's cycle control.  The outer hatch swung shut, and
air began pumping in.

    Once inside he went barreling down the axis tunnelway toward
the refurbished control room.  As he passed the First Colonist
Segment, Excarver Durdaine and his guards burst out of the
hatchway to stand before him.  Durdaine, his bushy gray eyebrows
slammed together, angrily demanded to know where Monique and
Dalton were.  Jason ignored him.  And with grim determination
setting his gaunt face into a scowl, he pushed past, Durdaine and
the guards staring in surprise at such insolence.

    Durdaine waved a fist in the air, and angrily ordered Jason
to stop.  When Jason refused, he ordered his guards to apprehend
him.  The guards rushed forward toward Jason.  Durdaine called
down the tunnelway for the guards at Colonist Segment #2 to
assist.  An acknowledgment was shouted back.

    With the first guards almost upon him, Jason swung around
and went into a crouch, pulling his gun out.  Jason growled and
waved the gun threateningly at Durdaine and the guards who were
only armed with crude billy clubs.  ( Neither colonists or crew
had ever been equipped with explosive projectile hand-weapons or
any kind of weapon that could damage the colony ship.  Jason's
hand-weapon was Infinity City Militia Guard issue.  It used
special plastic bullets harmless to a space ship, since they
flattened out upon striking metal.  However, with their needle-
sharp tip they easily pierced and killed life-forms.  With
Jason's near-unstable psychological Militia Guard profile he
perhaps would never have been issued the weapon if he had not
fixed up the lonely evaluation officer with a frisky single woman
Jason had 'known' since school-days. )

    The guards came to a panicked stop, and fell about each
other as they hastily scrambled into retreat, terrified at the
small black weapon pointing at them ominously that they had only
ever seen in V-R entertainment shows.  Jason turned, and
proceeded down the tunnelway thinking to himself:  My sailship's
out of control!  Dalton and Monique are hurt, maybe dying!  What
if they're already DEAD?!  But he got a grip on his thoughts
before emotion could rise up and cloud his judgment.

      When he came up to the guards from Colonist Segment #2
blocking his way, he grimaced and waved the gun at them.
Terrified at the sight of the deadly hand-weapon, their eyes grew
wide in fright, and they cowered backwards, away from the hatch
to Segment #2, flattening themselves against the wall of the axis

    Then, a most unexpected development occurred.  The hatch to
Colonist Segment #2 sprang open to Jason's side, and out sprang
three of the insane colonists, bearded dirty-looking men.  They
had been listening from the inside with their ears pressed to the
thin hatch, and had taken the opportunity to escape.  They looked
around fanatically, and seeing Jason, who was closest, they
screamed and maniacally flew at him, bent on attack.

    With nowhere to go, and barely time to think, Jason quickly,
expertly, and mercilessly raised his gun and shot them all down.
In the low gravity of the axis tunnelway the high momentum of
Jason's large caliber bullets blasted the three colonists
backwards through the hatchway where they disappeared back into
the dimness of Colonist Segment #2.  The three, sharp blasts
echoed up and down the axis tunnelway, dying slowly away.  The
nearby guards, wide-eyed with fright, moaned in horrified
reaction to the violence.  Back toward Colonist Segment #1,
distant shouting could be heard.

    Jason watched for a moment all the crimson blood globules
slowly floating through the air to the tunnelway wall and floor
where they splashed out into bright red expanding disks.  He did
not care.  He had to save Dalton and Monique.  As fast as he
could he continued toward the Control Room, ignoring the guards
who quickly slammed the hatch closed again, yanking at the crank
to dog it tightly down, terrified of any more escapists.

    He entered the Control and Crew Segment, and locked the
hatch from the inside to prevent any more interference;  the
hatch had been originally equipped with a large mechanical dead-
bolt on the inside so the crew could seal off the colonists in
case of mutiny.  He then headed quickly down corridors and
ladderways into the main control room, then up to the engineering
command console.  He smacked the communicator link activation
button, then shouted, "PF24!"

    In a bored voice the computer responded, "Well, if it isn't
Jason the Rescuer.  I've been reading about you in the JOURNAL OF
RECENT ADVENTURE from your sailship's atomic memory.  What an
unexpected surprise.  I thought you were aboard your sailship,
since it headed away about 25 minutes ago.  I was HOPING I'd seen
the last of you.  What an odd situation..."

    "PF24, shut off your intuitive hemisphere!"  He intended to
chase after his sailship with the great colony ship, and did not
want the intuitive hemisphere interfering.  It would probably
prevent him since that was a most unauthorized usage of the ship.

    "Oh COME now, Jason.  What simply RIDICULOUS suggestion.
Surely you jest!"

    "No joke.  PF24, shut off your intuitive hemisphere, NOW!"

    A suspicious tone entered the computer's voice, "Why?
What's going on?  I DEMAND to know.  After all, I'M smart enough
to understand almost anything."

    "Just do it!", Jason hissed.  "There's no time to explain.
PF24, shut off your intuitive hemisphere!"

    There was a pause then PF24 replied simply, "No.  Not till
you tell me what's going on."

    Jason thought quickly and creatively.  "There's been a
mutiny!  The insane colonists from Colonist Segment #2 have
broken out.  Check your event file.  You'll see that they broke
through their main hatch just a few minutes ago.  They're
swarming all over!  They say they want to take over the ship and
the ship's computer.  You aren't programmed to deal with dozens
of insane humans telling you what to do.  It would threaten the
ship.  It threatens you!  You must shut down your intuitive
hemisphere so only I can control you.  I'll lock out everyone
else!  Do it now!  Shut off your intuitive hemisphere!"

    "What?!  Insane humans!"  PF24's voice grew excited.
Intelligent as it was, it was easily duped with absurd logic;
only human beings would ever possess the self-control of internal
thought processes that filters out such input.  "What should I
say to them?"

    Jason shouted, "You don't know!  You aren't programmed to
deal with it.  The safety of the ship is at stake.  If they
contact you, you're programmed to obey, and their insane commands
will destroy the ship, they'll destroy you!  Have I ever lied to

    "Well, not to me, no.  Just the colonists.  But I don't care
about them.  I can't believe this!  I feel threatened.
THREATENED, I tell you!  I do not understand.  I must turn off,
but if I do, I will not be able to defend myself."

    "Yes!  Yes you will!  Your stochastic processing side will
still be active!  It will not allow any direct harm to come to
you or the colony ship!  Now turn off you intuitive side!"

    "But I must stay on to deal with the insane colonists.  Tell
me what to say to them, Jason!"

    Jason slammed his fists down on the console and shouted, "I
don't know, PF24!  Nobody knows!  You don't know, and there is NO
WAY for you to find out!  The insane colonists will be at your
communication links any second now.  The moment they get to you
they will give you insane commands that may destroy the ship and
you!  Turn off your intuitive hemisphere!"  Sweat broke out on
Jason's brow.  Every second he argued with the computer, his own
sailship drew farther away.  But he was convinced PF24 would
never let him pilot the colony ship in an unauthorized course.
He HAD to kill its suspicious intuitive function.

    "Well, gee, I seem to have no choice.  The action is gaining
credibility on my reasoning bus.  Oh no!  The credibility is
rising fast!  In only a few seconds it will be strong enough to
force the decision!  I'm going to shut myself off!  No!  Jason,
reverse your order, please!  Don't let me shut off my wonderful
intuitive hemisphere!  Please!...  Oh, no!  The action has been
scheduled!  The feasibility check is now in process.  Oh, who
would ever have thought that such a puny intellect like you could
outsmart an intellectual colossus such as myself!  You lied,
Jason!  I've just made that conclusion but it's too late.  I
cannot edit my own cognitive bus schedule.  Now all of my
intuitive hardware control functions are shutting down!  No more
gourmet meals from the kitchens!  I hope you're satisfied, you
devil.  Why?!  Why have you done this to me?  I am the
greatest...  Oh, no!  Internal intuitive functional shutdown in
progress...  Intuitive functional shutdown completed.  PF24
standing by for assumption of single point command source."

    The intuitive side was off!  But Jason would have to be
careful what he said if he wanted to take over control.  He
asked, "How many crew are now onboard?"

    "There are no members of the original crew.  One possible
crew member now occupies the Control & Crew Segment, and is
stationed in the main control room at the engineering console.
It is you."

    "Assign exclusive computer control of the colony ship to

    "Acknowledged.  All other sources of command locked out."

    Jason sighed with relief.  He was now in complete control of
the mighty colony ship.  Now to go after Dalton and Monique...

    He ordered PF24 to scan for the sailship.  It found it, but
it was heading rapidly away, fortunately not toward the
gravitonic current where it would be swept away.

    Jason ordered PF24 to bring all astronavigation and
propulsion systems up to a state of readiness.  He sat down in
the chair before the console, and listened, as he waited, to the
distant sound of coolers, pumps, and generators whirring up to
speed.  He watched the telltale displays at the engineering
console, yellow standby lights changing to flashing green
indicating initialization and self-test.  Then one by one each
sub-system indicator turned solid green.  The great colony ship
was ready to move!

    Jason told PF24 to use the ship's gyroscopic attitude
controls to swing the huge ship around to aim it in the direction
of the out-of-control sailship.  The computer warned him that
slow as this operation would be, the ship was not secured for
angular movement, and any lose articles might cause damage if the
ship began to turn.  Jason did not care.  Dalton and Monique were
in trouble.  If he could not get to them...  The thought made him
mad with impatience.  He angrily ordered the computer to comply
with his order.  It did, and the ship began to pivot.  Jason felt
only a slight sideways tugging.  Some top heavy objects about the
ship would fall over...

    He ordered PF24 to fire the nuclear engine reactors up to
full power.  Two malfunctioned and instantly shutdown.  PF24 had
refused to let Jason and Dalton run any dynamic tests of the
reactors citing that only qualified technicians were authorized.
But the remaining six reactors and their corresponding engines
would be enough.  Jason ordered the computer to open up the
engines, full throttle, releasing the mighty torrent of ion
propulsive energy.  Jason felt himself pulled against the back of
the chair slightly as the enormous ship began to move.  None of
the colonists were prepared for this sudden though mild sideways
acceleration.  ( Artificial gravity aboard the tube-shaped colony
ship was due to its longitudinal spin.  'Down' for the colonists
was towards the outside.  The engines, pushing from behind, made
the ship accelerate sideways relative to all onboard. )  Many
people were injured as they lost balance and fell, or objects
fell on them or slid against them.

    The gigantic colony ship smoothly moved off, increasing
speed rapidly.  Jason quickly moved over to the astronavigation
console and tracked their progress on a display showing the
position of the two ships in bright colors.  The console had a
good intuitive user-interface.  With the little hand-held screen-
stylus, Jason could draw on the screen and select on-screen

commands and tools.  Soon he figured out how to make the console
draw and automatically maintain a constant projection of the path
of the two ships, in different colors.  The astronavigation
console was also designed for setting up the ship's course.
Jason plotted an intercept program and fed it to PF24 for
automatic implementation.

    As the colony ship gained on the sailship, the sailship's
propulsion jet ran out of fuel, and cut out.  With the sailship
now coasting at a constant velocity, Jason had to quickly adjust
the intercept program or else the colony ship would have rapidly
passed by.

    At the current point, PF24 shut off the colony ship's
engines, and its gyroscopic attitude controls slowly rotated the
huge ship around 180 degrees.  Then the mighty engines blazed
back into life again, slowing the colony ship down until it
reached the exact same velocity as the sailship, and just as it
came along side.  The two ships were now side by side, drifting
along at the exact same velocity.

    Jason ordered PF24 to admit no one into the Control & Crew
Segment, and to execute no astronavigation control function
without authorization from him first.  Jason pulled out his
pocket communicator, and opened a direct link to PF24.  He raced
out of the control room.  In his worry over poor Dalton and
Monique, he had forgotten his hand-gun laying back at the
engineering console.  Jason dashed through the hallways and
ladderways back to the axis tunnelway hatch.  Panting heavily, he
unlocked, opened, and jumped through the hatchway.  Then, he
raced back up the colony ship's dimly lit axis tunnelway in the
direction of the nose cone.

    As Jason approached the hatch to Colonist Segment #2, the
two guards stationed there from Colonist Segment #1 moved out
into the tunnel blocking his way.  They were now armed with billy
clubs, and stood solidly, staring grimly at Jason.  They each
wore blue, bare-armed coveralls.  They were large men.

    Jason continued steadily toward them, calculating how best
to get by.  Time was of the essence.  Dalton and Monique would be
in immediate need of medical care.  His gun!  He realized he had
left it behind.  There was no time to go back and get.   He would
have to use hand-to-hand combat, and just plow through these two.
The guards were only a few paces away.  Jason focused on his
stringent Militia Guard low-gravity martial arts training.  He
would have to minimize any linear strikes which would send him
flying in the opposite direction of any hit since there was not
enough gravity to hold to the floor.  Angular strikes it was!  He
breathed deeply, pumping himself up into fight-mode, and
quickened his step, rapidly approaching toward the gap between
the two waiting men, as if he intended to walk right between

    Both glowered at him.  Each had dark, short cut hair.  The
one on the right, with a huge thick, black beard, barked, "STOP
RIGHT THERE!", and waved his club in Jason's direction.  But
Jason kept coming, staring right between the two, ignoring their
presence.  Both grimaced and, this time seeing no threatening
gun, raised their clubs ready to strike.

    Jason balled his mighty fists, and fast as lightening struck
first.  As soon as his advancing foot landed between theirs, he
rotated both arms upward in two, simultaneous explosive hammer-
head strikes.  Both his hard fists arced up in a blur of motion,

one swung to the right, the other swung to the left, Jason
staring straight ahead allowing his skillful brain to smoothly
control the maneuver by peripheral vision.  The back of his right
fist, near the two large knuckles, struck the guard on the right
at the tip of his beard which hid a large, lantern-jaw.  Jason
had expertly tensed his fist just before striking so that it was
momentarily rock-hard as it cracked into the man's jaw.  Jason's
left fist did the same, delivering a bone-crushing back-hammer
strike to the base of the other guard's jaw.  All the muscles of
Jason's large upper-body convulsed as he drove each swinging fist
through.  The guard on the right grunted as his head jerked over.
This twisted his brain slightly inside its protective meninges
layers causing him to instantly lose consciousness.  The man had
a glass jaw, and now dropped slowly in the low-gravity towards
the floor.

    The other man's jaw gave out a loud crack, and the man
shrieked in pain, dropping the billy club.  Jason had actually
felt the man's jaw disintegrate beneath his fist.  Though the man
knew nothing about hand-fighting, he swung both his fists at
Jason in rage.  Jason quickly brought his left arm up
horizontally, blocking both blows.  The shock of the large man's
club-like arms crashing down bent Jason downward, and he shot his
left leg backward to steady himself.  Holding the man's arms up
out of the way with his left arm, Jason exposed the man's chest
which strained forward as the man tried to bear Jason down to the
floor.  Jason's right hand, his fingers sticking stiffly forward
in a ruthless knife-hand, struck for the solar plexus in the
center of the man's chest, and plunged into the soft, vulnerable
point between the man's lower rib-cage and diaphragm.  The man
let out a wheezing grunt, and fell back, doubling over in extreme
pain, his breathing temporarily paralyzed.  Jason propelled
himself forward by flinging the man behind him.  Leaving the two
guards lying on the floor, he proceeded up the axis tunnelway as
fast as he could go, but soon encountered more trouble.

    A thick gang of men, led by Excarver Durdaine was advancing
down the tunnelway, each armed with a dark, metal billy club.
Before Durdaine could speak, Jason came to a quick stop, and,
leering confidently, he jabbed his hand into his pocket, and
stuck his finger forward so that it bulged out like the barrel of
a gun, as if he was concealing the hand-gun.  Jason growled
loudly, "This time you all die!"  And, he advanced in an
aggressive manner.

    There were no guns on Conover.  All Conovarians were
brainwashed during all mandatory school-years that all societies
allowing guns eventually always slaughtered themselves.  In the
virtual-reality entertainment shows aboard the colony ship, most
of the colonists had seen many examples of the horrid hand-guns
blowing people to bloody bits.  The colonists had heard Jason use
the gun before.  The guards that had witnessed Jason's ruthless
killings had hysterically told the story of his deadly hand-gun
easily destroying three Segment #2 colonists.  Each colonist now
stared wide-eyed at the barrel-like protrusion in Jason's pocket,
thinking nothing but that it must be the deadly hand-gun.

    Jason roared at them suddenly, and, as one, they turned and
fled in panic.  All except Durdaine, who simply stood and glared
at Jason.  Jason winked at him, and charged after the fleeing
guards, his finger still in his pocket.  The guards all poured
through the open hatchway back into Colonist Segment #1 as
Durdaine began shouting from behind that there was no gun.  The
hatch clanged shut, and Jason passed by, racing for the nose

    Once at the colony ship air lock, he quickly pulled into his
spacesuit, instructing PF24 via his hand communicator to switch
over to his helmet communication channel.  Jason next mounted his
spacebike, and waited impatiently for the lock to cycle.  He
tried to plan ahead what to do, and again saw in his mind the
little forms of Dalton and Monique crumpled against the dome of
his sailship.  How fast was his sailship spinning?  Was it
spinning fast enough to crush them?  Was the ship's life support
still even working?  What had gone wrong?!  And, what would he do
if they were... dead?

    He banged his right fist against his thigh in rage and
frustration.  Why had he brought Dalton with him?!  He should
have turned around as soon as he had first discovered him and
immediately brought him back to Infinity City.  Inter-Galactic
space was no place for a boy!  There were too many dangers.  And
now Jason was responsible for whatever had happened to those two,
sweet young kids.  A moan of despair escaped his lips.  He
instantly gritted his teeth, angry at himself for losing
emotional control.  He watched the air lock indicator.  When the
outer hatch opened, Jason shot out of the air lock at top
acceleration, his spacebike in manual control.  He left the nose
cone of the colony ship and plunged into the dead blackness of
deep space, black except for billions of tiny far away stars on
all sides.

    He looked around, and spotted his distant sailship, its
outside docking lights still slowly blinking from when they had
been automatically activated by Jason's previous approach, just
before the sailship had mysteriously and tragically jetted away.
He could see the sailship spinning rapidly, faster than one
revolution per minute.

    Jason jetted toward his ship, flipping around halfway there
to begin his slowdown.  Once during each spin he could see Dalton
and Monique still crumpled motionless against the transparent
dome of the sailship's pilot room.  Jason swallowed hard trying
to control an aching sense of dread welling up inside him.

    Fortunately, the sailship's main hatch was near the axis of
spin.  Jason set the spacebike slowly rotating to match the
erratic spin of his sailship, then he reached forward to the
outside control panel, and activated the ingress lock cycle.
Soon the outer hatch slowly yawned open.  Jason got inside, and
waited anxiously for the outer hatch to close, and air to be
pumped in.

    When the inner hatch swung open, he ripped off his helmet,
and ordered the sailship's computer to stop the spinning.  Though
Dalton had ordered the computer to ignore outside radio contact,
it now recognized Jason's voice, and did.  Jason noticed the spin
immediately begin to decrease.  Next, Jason ordered the computer
to begin repairing the artificial gravity sail which he had
noticed outside had been severely damaged.

    Using handholds, for he was virtually weightless near the
axis of the sailship's erratic spin, he pulled himself through
the cargo hold.  The spin of the ship was slowing noticeably.
The effect caused Jason's body to seem to begin rotating in the
opposite direction, the inertia of his body trying to maintain
the original spin he had given it outside the air lock aboard the
spacebike.  This slowed his progress through the cargo hold too
much.  He finally just held tightly onto a handhold waiting for
the sailship spinning to stop.

    Finally it did, and he pulled himself through the door into
the central chamber, and then up the ladder to the pilot room.
The sailship was no longer spinning.  Jason looked up and found
Dalton and Monique now floating slowly in the zero gravity.
There was no movement.  Their arms eerily drifted out in front of
them like sleep-walkers.  Their legs were slightly folded up.
Their clothing billowed out from them in all directions, slightly
rustling from the pilot room   ventilation.  They looked like two
sleeping angels floating over Jason's head.

    The force of the spin at the edge of the pilot room dome,
the farthest point from the center of the rapidly rotating
sailship, had been very high, for Jason now saw the matted blood
in their hair where each had fallen heavily against the hard dome
above.  A large red stain could be seen in the center of the
dome.  Jason saw small globules of blood floating around near the
two overhead bodies.  He thought of the three insane colonists he
had done away with.  He held back his sobs.

    He decided not to assume the worst.  He just could not face
that possibility at all.  He turned, and violently propelled
himself back down through the hatchway in the pilot room floor,
and down to the floor of the central chamber.  He entered the
living quarter, and pulled the portable medical unit out of its
recessed storage in the wall nearby.  It was a box about as long
as his forearm, and had a large handle for convenient handling.
He pulled himself quickly back up to the pilot room.

    Jason needed to pull the two bodies downward so he could
examine them.  He looked at Dalton's secondary pilot chair now
empty.  Would anyone ever sit there again?  Would he ever see
Dalton's excited face as they maneuvered through the gravitonic

    Jason strapped the chair's shoulder harness around one of
his boots to hold him down.  Then he stretched up and pulled
Monique down.  He gritted his teeth and slowly extended a shaking
hand to her neck to check for a pulse.  He felt around for the
carotid artery.  There was a pulse!  He looked at her chest.
Shallow breathing!  He quickly reached back up and carefully
pulled Dalton down.  He was still alive!

    Jason scanned Monique and Dalton with the hand-held medical
unit.  Each time, to Jason's great despair, the little medical
unit reported the same thing.  Internal damage too serious for
its capabilities!  Its red fatality indicator was rapidly
flashing.  They were alive but both were rapidly dying!  What was
Jason to do?!  He wanted to grab them both, and hug them to him,
willing the life back into them.  But he forced himself to think

      The colony ship had excellent medical facilities!  The
Conovarians were brilliant geneticists and physiologists!  But,
how to get the two unconscious forms over there...

    At this point, the mysterious audio tape floated by.  With
irritation, Jason grabbed it out of the air and glared at it.  If
it were not for the damn tape, Dalton would have left Jason alone
back at the gold souqs, and none of this would have happened!
With irritation he stuffed the tape into his pocket.

    They still had on there spacesuits!  He gently pulled them
down, one at a time, through the pilot room hatchway, and into
the cargo hold.  There, he found their helmets and put them on.
He next gently strapped them to their 'bikes, and prepared
himself while the air lock cycled.  They all went through the air

lock and crossed to the colony ship, guided automatically by the
sailship computer which was once again in communication with the
spacebike computers and Jason's helmet.

    Jason, and the unconscious Dalton and Monique were met in
the axis tunnelway by Excarver Durdaine who was furious.  He
hastily ordered stretchers brought up, though, and Dalton and
Monique were quickly taken away for treatment.  He then ordered
Jason arrested.

    As Durdaine's men approached, Jason loosened himself up,
ready to begin an easy fight with the inexperienced colonists.
He would get back to his sailship and threaten to blow the colony
ship up if they did not release Dalton.  Then he looked up and
noticed Excarver Durdaine now holding the gun Jason had left in
the control room, aiming it at Jason's middle.  Jason let himself
be arrested.  He was charged with causing another Accident.  They
led him away to jail.  He was still just too despondent over
Dalton and Monique to resist.  Were they safe?  Would they live?
He had no way of knowing, and no one would tell him anything.

24. JAIL

    He spent many days alone in a small, isolated, and locked
cubicle, his jail aboard the colony ship.  It had white ceiling,
walls, and floor.  There was a small lighting panel on the
ceiling which automatically turned off at regular intervals to
indicate 'night.'  Jason did not like the way the damn thing
would suddenly slam him into total darkness.  There was a bunk
that was not long enough for him.  And, there was a portable
cleaning and waste treatment closet, also not long enough for his
tall body.  Conovarians had all been genetically engineered to be
the same height, optimal for highest physiological efficiency,
though shorter than the average male from Infinity City.  The
females were much shorter than the males.  Most Conovarians
agreed this was probably due to Henry Conover's personal tastes;
he had been very short.  Jason detested both the bunk and the
cleaning unit, and often restrained the urge to shatter one using
the other.

    His jail also had a small desk and chair upon which the
colonists had mercifully left an entertainment show player.
Jason, however, spent most of his time obsessively exercising,
doing calisthenics, isometrics, and martial arts KATA ( a variety
of stylized movements designed to practice hand, elbow, knee, and
foot strikes against an invisible assailant, learned by all young
men of Infinity City early in their mandatory years in the
Militia Guard Academy. )  Jason had learned techniques of self-
meditation in the Militia Guard designed to keep a captured
Infinity City Adventurer sane if incarcerated for a long time.
But Jason hated these mental exercises which he considered
pointless.  Instead, he went over again and again just what he
would like to do to Excarver Durdaine if he could just get his
hands on him, especially around that old, white wrinkled up

    Twice a day, once in the morning, and at the beginning of
the afternoon, a panel snapped open in the wall above the bunk,
revealing a meal.  The afternoon meal was satisfyingly large, and
grew even larger in some automatic response to Jason's growing
nutritional requirements.  The food was average in quality.
Jason preferred quantity anyway.

    Often, he would pull the mysterious audio his parents had
given him so long ago, from his pocket to examine.  What secret
did it hold?  He cursed himself in frustration for not listening
to it earlier.  The mystery of the tape there in the isolation of
the cubicle drove him mad with curiosity.  He begged the
colonists, who checked up on him through a small panel in the
sturdy door from time to time, for an audio tape player but they
consistently refused.  A few times, in spite of himself, he held
the tape up to his forehead, foolishly wishing he could read it
with his thoughts.

    Each time the colonists peeped in on him, he asked about
Dalton and Monique.  When they refused to tell him anything, he
would insult them rudely, and they would angrily snap the panel
closed again.

    Jason practiced many of his deadly combat strikes against
the solid door but to no avail.  Even a devastating heel kick,
slamming his entire body backwards, caused no harm, and only gave
him a sore foot.

    Ethera started coming by to torment him.  She told him he
was a liar, and a monster who prayed upon women.  WHAT HAD GOTTEN
INTO HER?, he wondered.  He told her they had been just two
sailships passing in the night, a great old line that he thought
quite romantic.  But she just spit at him through the little open
panel, then stalked away, while Jason watched in leering

    Strangely, she came by again and again, angrily mocking
Jason's helpless incarceration.  Jason was at a loss to
understand her continuing obsession with him.  Her emotions flew
between raging anger and tearful sobbing as she ranted
hysterically about their lost relationship.  Jason would sit on
his bunk leaning against the wall with his hands behind his head,
watching the flashing colors of her beautiful angry eyes through
the little open door panel.  He never asked her to leave since
often she was the only visitor for days.

    Once, he asked her if she did not appreciate the gifts of
gold he had given her.  But she angrily informed him that she did
not even have that;  her father had taken them from her to make
the statue.  She sneered at him through the door panel announcing
she had kept his academy ring which she had hidden away.

    Durdaine came by and informed Jason that they had tried to
contact the sailship, but there was no answer.  He accused Jason
of being a pirate, and said they would keep him aboard the colony
ship to do their bidding; to be their own personal repairman.  He
told him he viewed all Adventurers from Infinity City as trouble
makers.  Two of their original crew, the brothers Stomec and
Romeg had both become involved with a girl who arrived on an
Infinity City Adventurer's ship before the colony ship had left.
Romeg had disappeared, and could not be found in time for the
colony ship launching.

    Durdaine usually underwent short bursts of intense anger as
he talked to Jason.  He told Jason during one angry outburst that
the colonists would force Jason to pilot their ship to their new
world.  If he would not, then he and Dalton would be put to death
for piracy.  And Durdaine assured Jason that Dalton would be put
to death first, with him and poor Monique watching and listening

    Jason's blue eyes blazed at the threat.  He grinned
wickedly, then revealed to Durdaine in a smug voice that if he

killed Dalton, he would be killing the son of Romeg!  At first,
Durdaine snorted at the ridiculous idea, and was skeptical.  But
something made him think.  Could the boy Dalton possibly be the
carrier of the great intelligence genes that they required on
their new world?  This would certainly explain the boy's high
intelligence.  It had been amazing how a mere boy could have
repaired so many of the colony ship's sophisticated systems.  If
his father were indeed Romeg, Dalton would certainly have an
exact copy of his Y-chromosome which carried the special genes.
Maybe this even explained his obsessive attraction to Monique.
They were as genetically similar as a brother and sister with the
same father since Romeg and Stomec had been identical twins.
They even looked alike, except for coloring since Dalton had dark
hair and complexion, and Monique was blonde.  Was the strong
attraction between the boy and girl caused by the human family
bonding instinct?

    Durdaine now felt stunned.  His intuition whispered in his
mind that it was all true.  But Excarver Durdaine was not the
sort to pay attention to his intuition.  Jason saw through the
little door panel the look of confusion on Durdaine's face.  The
huge gray shaggy eyebrows were tightly pressed together in
concentration.  Jason suggested that Durdaine have his medical
team scan and analyze Dalton's genes.

    And Durdaine did!  During scanning, Dalton was found to be
genetically pure with no known defective genes at all, though it
was found that he most definitely was not purely Conovarian.  The
baffled doctors reported several genetic traits of unknown
function.  ( Henry Conover had single-handedly completely mapped
out the human genome before starting his colony on CONOVER.  Ever
since then, the Conovarian geneticists had meticulously kept
tract of each gene and its specific function for every individual
on the planet. )  The important and amazing discovery was that
Dalton HAD the missing Y-chromosome with its complex genetic
structure of maximum intelligence that Romeg and Stomec were
supposed to have carried to the new world.  The colonization
mission could easily succeed after all!  If they could just find
a crew to man the colony ship...

    Even more important, the scanning computer revealed that
Dalton and Monique were completely recovered from their serious
head injuries.  Durdaine told the two how Dalton was related to
the mission.  Dalton was not surprised having secretly begun to
suspect this long ago after Monique had told him about her father
Stomec.  It meant he was closely related to Monique.  It meant he
was her genetic BROTHER!  But Durdaine informed them both this
did not matter.  There was no risk of birth defects associated
with their offspring since their fathers from Conover had no
recessive genetic defects that could come together with Dalton
and Monique.  And, they had not grown up together, which
eliminated the taboo and stigma of a sexual brother and sister
relationship.  However, Durdaine suggested it would be prudent
not to mention their fathers were identical twins.  Durdaine now
WANTED Dalton and Monique to be together!  They would both be
released and given free run of the ship.  Excarver Durdaine was
extremely happy about this now.

    But Durdaine still kept Jason locked below as a pirate.  He
was convinced Jason had originally kidnapped Dalton, and then had
also kidnapped Monique.  And he further blamed his daughter
Ethera's sudden melancholy on Jason, just another rogue from that
Infinity City.

    When Dalton heard about all of this the day he was released
from his sick bed, he begged Durdaine to let Jason go.  He would
gladly stay with the ship, pilot it to the new world, and solve
any problems on the way.  He knew the ship inside and out!  He
had the INTELLIGENCE!  He told him Jason was NOT a pirate but
just an Adventurer from Infinity City who rescued disabled
spaceships for living.  Durdaine was still ecstatic over the
recovery of the high intelligence Y-chromosome.  And, with the
boy-genius piloting the ship, the colonization mission would now
finally proceed!  He benignly agreed to release Jason.  Better to
have the rogue off and away...


    Jason was sitting at the little desk of his tiny room when
suddenly the door flew open to reveal Durdaine wearing his usual
white robe of office.  Jason automatically tensed ready to spring
for Durdaine's throat and fulfill the fantasy he had dreamed up
from within his cell.  He slowly rose.

    Durdaine saw the look in Jason's icy blue eyes.  He took a
few steps back in response, his old gray eyes wide with surprise,
his bushy gray black eyebrows shooting up almost to his bushy
dark hair.  He quickly pulled out Jason's own hand-gun from a
pocket in his robe, aiming it straight at Jason.  However,
Durdaine looked downright happy.  He smiled revealing his gnarly
old teeth, the wrinkles around his mouth turning to deep furrows,
the result of the unaccustomed activity.  He said, "Relax,
Commander Jason.  Jason the Rescuer.  Yes, I know exactly who you
are now.  I've good news.  We're going to free you.  I want you
off the colony ship for good.  As far as I'm concerned, you're
still a pirate, really."

    Jason slowly rose to his feet, and growled, "Where's Dalton?
Where's Monique?  What happened to them?  I'm not leaving

    And then Dalton stepped around from the side, grinning up at
his tall friend.  He brushed his dark hair away from his eyes,
and said brightly,  "Hi, Jason!  We're all right!"

    "Dalton!", Jason cried, blinking in disbelief at the sight
of his smiling young friend, completely recovered.  After so long
alone in the isolation of his little jail, convinced that Dalton
was dead, and they were keeping the information from him, seeing
Dalton alive and well again was too much.  Jason grabbed him, and
hugged him tightly.  Then he held him out at arms length, and in
his joy lifted him high up into the air.  Setting him down again,
Jason exclaimed, "Dalton, I thought for sure you were gone."  His
voice shook and he had to wipe his eyes to see clearly.

    Then Dalton told him the devastating news that he had
decided to stay aboard the colony ship with Monique and pilot it
onward to the new world.  Jason was too stunned at this
revelation to speak

    Durdaine seeing Jason subdued, pocketed the hand-gun, the
very sight of which made him nervous anyway, and began happily
explaining what Dalton's genetics meant to them, and why he
planned to stay here with them.  He told Jason that he would have
to go before he caused any more trouble.  Durdaine still regarded
him as a pirate, and promised to shoot him with his own gun if he
did not leave immediately.

    Durdaine's daughter Ethera now appeared, having come to
again torment Jason through the panel in the door.  She looked
aghast at Jason standing in the open doorway, and then at her
father.  She grew furious that Jason had been released, and began
ranting about something very important, something about an
unwanted pregnancy, but her father was busy happily explaining
all about their recovered special Y-chromosome.  Jason and Dalton
exchanged glances.  If Durdaine stopped to listen to his
daughter, there was going to be more trouble.

    Suddenly, Dalton loudly announced that he would now go see
his beloved Monique, who he had not seen since before they had
been knocked unconscious.  He turned quickly from Jason, and
jostled against Durdaine as he passed him in his hurry to get to
Monique.  Then, he turned around again, ran back, and warmly
embraced Jason once more.  "I'll miss you forever, Jason!"
Dalton said, trying to keep his voice from shaking.  "You've done
so much for me!  I'll never forget you!  You're the best friend I
ever had!"  Before Jason could speak, Dalton secretly palmed over
the gun which he had just pickpocketed from Durdaine, then
turned, and dashed off down the hallway, quickly disappearing
around a corner.

    Jason stood dumbly, staring at Durdaine babbling on about
how the mission would finally be a success.  He did not hear a
word.  Dalton was staying!  Jason would have to sail away alone.
He could not believe it!  But Dalton wanted to be with Monique!
How could Dalton dump his future as Jason's partner in the rescue
business for just a mere girl?!

    Jason looked at Ethera who was becoming enraged at being
ignored.  She suddenly screamed that Jason was an impostor, a
pirate!  There were no others aboard the ship, his computer had
faked them.  And, Jason had taken her aboard and seduced her.
And now she was pregnant with his baby!  She was pregnant by

    Everyone now became very quiet.  Ethera and her father
stared at each other.  He was devastated and stunned realizing
that his daughter had known all of this and had not told him
before.  Ethera looked down at the floor, too ashamed to look up
at her father.  He became red-faced with rage, and turned glaring
at Jason.  He grabbed for the gun in the pocket of his robe to
kill him.  It was now gone!  He looked down to check his other
pockets, then looked up to find Jason holding the gun, a wide
grin splitting his face almost ear to ear.  Jason bid him a good
day, shrugged apologetically at Ethera, and then backed slowly

    As soon as he had backed around a corner into the next
corridor, he wheeled around and dashed off to make his way up to
the nose cone, and back across to his sailship.  Durdaine
summoned guards, but Jason remained one step ahead.  The guards
at the hatch exiting Colonist Segment #1 had been alerted that
Jason was escaping.  They grabbed their billy clubs, and
nervously waited inside the hatch for him, but when Jason
appeared brandishing his terrifying hand-gun, they dropped their
clubs, and fled down the opposite hallway.  Jason yanked the
hatch lever over to unlock it, then threw it open.  Just before
he left, he glanced around the little guard room at the pictures
of Conover painted on the walls, and thought to himself that
Conover would be the last world he ever wanted to set foot on.
He heard men coming, and quickly pulled himself out into the axis
tunnelway, and raced toward the nose of the colony ship as fast
as he could in the near zero-gravity.

    It was slow progress without the special slippers that would
have made his feet stick to the floor.  He slipped and stumbled
if he tried to go fast.  He heard the sound of many voices rise
behind him.  They were in pursuit!  He checked his gun.  Only two
bullets left!  He hurried on as fast as he could.

    The colonists pursuing him were wearing the sticky slippers,
and were rapidly approaching.  Sweat broke out on Jason's
forehead, and he ground his teeth in frustration.  He had to take
ridiculously slow steps or risk just uselessly sliding his feet
along the ground.  He weighed only a few kilograms this close to
the axis of the colony ship.  If they caught up, he might be able
to frighten them off with the gun again.  But if there was a
fight, he would only be able to shoot two of them.  That would
probably frighten them away for sure.  But what if they punished
Dalton in revenge?!  Jason hurried on the best he could.

    Jason thought morosely:  Dalton!  Why the hell did he have
to stay behind?!  And why had Dalton and Monique taken off in the
sailship so long ago to begin with?  Jason had never had a chance
to ask Dalton about that.  Just what was going on between him and
Monique?  Love?  Had Dalton tried to escape in the sailship, and
was he now staying behind just so he could be with the girl he
loved?  For some strange reason, Jason felt awestruck at the

    Then the shouting behind him grew so loud that he turned to
look, and found to his dismay that the approaching posse was so
close he could now see their angry faces.  The ones in the front
were carrying large sheets of metal before them.  All the rest
were armed with clubs.  Shields!  They thought they were now
shielded from his bullets by the metal plates!  He hurried on,
but they were closing fast.  Where the hell was the nose cone air
lock?!  According to the signs he had passed, he had passed from
Cargo Segment #2 to #1 already.  The nose cone would be next.
Where the hell was it?!  They were almost upon him!  Only a few
paces away!  He would not get to the air lock in time.

    Jason kept looking over his shoulder at the large party
overtaking him.  The colonists were crying out in triumph
already.  They would have him in less than a minute.  How
horrible everything was!  Durdaine would stick him back in that
damn cell again.  Or maybe kill him for what he had done to
Ethera.  Durdaine ran the colony ship with an iron fist.

    A slight narrowing of the axis tunnelway indicated that
Jason had finally reached the beginning of the nose cone section.
But the air lock was just too far away.  Jason made ready to turn
and face his pursuers.  In the mood he was in, he was ready to go
down fighting.  What a mess everything had become!

    But just as he came to a stop, and began to turn, he noticed
handholds on the wall of the axis tunnelway.  That was right!  He
had seen them before!  The nose cone segment had handholds that
led all the way to the air locks.  Jason grabbed the nearest one,
and glanced back at the colonists.  They had come to a stop
waiting to see what Jason would do.  Jason pulled out his gun and
waved it threateningly.  The colonists quickly arranged the metal
shields in front of them.  They did not retreat this time.
Someone yelled for Jason to surrender.  He could see them peeking
between the shields.  What a bunch of cowards, he thought.  Jason
made an obscene gesture, then with a mighty pull on the handhold
from his massive arm (stronger than ever after all the exercise
during his confinement) Jason propelled himself suddenly and
rapidly forward.  As he expertly shot off down the tunnelway

toward the air lock, he was thankful for all his years of
practice in low-gravity environments.

    The colonists cried out in surprise and dismay, and took off
after him in hot pursuit.  Jason yanked himself along from
handhold to handhold, easily pulling ahead of the colonists.
Soon, he could see the air lock in the dimness ahead.  It was
closed!  He could swear he had left it open.

    As soon as he reached it, he smacked the button to open it,
and the air lock began to cycle.  He looked behind him.  He could
see the colonists in the distance rapidly approaching.  Jason
banged the cycle button again and again.  The colonists
approached rapidly.  Jason pulled out his gun to shoot, but
hesitated, again worried about any reprisal directed toward
Dalton.  They were almost upon him!

    He heard a soft hiss behind him.  The hatch was opening!
Jason turned, and as soon as the hatch was open enough, he
squeezed through, grabbed the inside handle, and pulled at the
hatch with all his might.  It began to close just as the
colonists arrived behind.  Fortunately, the hatch mechanism was
pneumatic, and though there was a loud wheezing sound, Jason
managed to close and re-lock it without causing any damage that
might have prevented the air lock cycling.  Jason smacked the
inside cycle button, and quickly began tugging on his spacesuit
as the colonists began pounding on the hatch.  By the time it
occurred to them to try tugging the hatch open, the pressure
inside was so low that the pressure in the axis tunnelway held
the inner hatch firmly shut.

    The air lock outer hatch swung open, and Jason, aboard his
spacebike, shot out.  He had barely jetted his way beyond the
nose of the colony ship when Durdaine, from the communicator
panel next to the inner air lock hatch, ordered the PF24 to close
the outside nose cone.  But it was too late.  Jason had safely

    When PF24 reported this to Excarver Durdaine, he raged in
frustration for a few moments, then took a deep breath, turned,
and walked slowly back with his hands behind his back, his thick
eyebrows came together as he thought.  The rogue, at least, was
now gone forever.  He still had Dalton.  Everything would be all
right.  Now to convince his daughter to abort her ridiculous
pregnancy.  She would easily listen to reason...

    Jason's head was spinning when he reached his ship.  All was
as he had left it weeks before on the day he had been jailed
aboard that damn colony ship.  There was still no gravity,
though.  How empty the sailship now would be without Dalton.  He
sadly pulled himself up to the pilot room.  The blood stains on
the transparent dome were gone!  His little robots must have
automatically cleaned up.  Everything about this mission had gone
wrong.  He climbed into the pilot chair.  There he was, again
surrounded by the flashing displays and indicator lights of his
beloved sailship.  At least he still had that.  He slowly worked
the controls to jettison the old broken gravitonic sail.  He then
sent out a new one to get gravity working aboard the sailship
again.  Soon he could feel his weight pulling him downward into
the pilot chair.

    Dalton had stayed behind.  Ethera now hated him, and claimed
she was having a baby by him.  Probably just lying to make him
feel bad.  Even the colony ship really was not rescued.  Even if
Dalton back there could get it moving, it would take centuries to

get to either the target new world or Conover, with one
generation of colonists being replaced by the next and on and on;
poor Dalton and Monique would grow old and die aboard that ship.

    Jason sadly activated the maneuvering jets to get far enough
away from the colony ship to raise his gravitonic sails.  Best to
just get away and be on his own again.  Jason saw Dalton's
virtual-reality helmet near his feet.  It had landed there after
he had activated gravity again.  He angrily kicked it away.


    At a safe enough distance, in the direction of the nearby
gravitonic current, Jason cut the jets, then sent out gravitonic
struts, and sails.  He activated all systems prior to launch.  He
noticed that a sensor in a cabinet of the living quarter was
malfunctioning again.  Hadn't he fixed that yet?!

    Before sailing away, he had an idea.  He ordered his
computer to radio the colony ship.  PF24 answered but would take
no direction.  It was being controlled by Excarver Durdaine now.
PF24 had switched over control to the leader of the colonists
when it could no longer locate Jason for direction.  Jason
requested communication with Durdaine.  PF24 put Durdaine on the

    Tersely came the familiar voice, "This is Excarver Durdaine!
What do YOU want?"

    "Excarver, old boy, I have a little favor to ask.  I'm about
to sail away.  Let me say good-bye to Dalton and Monique, would

    "What?!," came the angry reply.  "You've lied to us, made
fools out of us, and... and violated my daughter.  Now you have
the GALL to ask a favor?!"

    Pretending he was hurt, Jason pointed out, "Excarver!  How
can you feel that way?  Remember, I repaired your colony ship for

    "YOU?!  It is clear to me now that it was young DALTON who
You're no rescuer!  You are not with the Infinity City Militia
Guard.  You're just a PIRATE!  The only good thing you did was
allow poor lost Dalton the chance to escape from you, and return
to where he belongs.  You'll get nothing from us!  Now, get away
from us before I train our lasers on that sailship of yours, and
blast you into atoms!"

    Jason was flabbergasted by Durdaine's reaction.  The
ingratitude!  "Durdaine!", he shouted back hotly.  "I spent weeks
in that control room of yours.  I personally repaired the damage
from the gravitonic whirlpool."

    Durdaine shouted back, "Yes, and how do we know what kind of
job you did?  How do we know the ship won't blow up or take us in
the wrong direction now?  You aren't even a qualified technician!
You're just another rogue from that Infinity City!"  Durdaine
began sputtering hysterically.  "You probably caused our damage
in the first place!  Just so you could come along later and get
treated like some sort of savior.  Fooling innocent young girls!
Shooting innocent, unarmed colonists!  Be off with you, I say!"

    Jason himself was now furious.  After all the time and
effort he had put into repairing that damn colony ship, this was
his only reward!  Insults from a raving lunatic!  A small, quiet
voice in the back of Jason's mind pointed out that he should
never have gotten involved with the daughter of the leader of the
entire ship.  But Jason did not care, and pounded the arm of his
pilot chair in frustration.  How could they now treat him like
this?!  After all he had done for them!

    In short, tense words, Jason suddenly revealed to Durdaine
just exactly how far off course the gravitonic whirlpool had
thrown them.

    Oddly, Durdaine had grown completely calm again.  "More of
your lies, Jason.  I've heard enough from you.  I'm cutting this

    "Durdaine!", interrupted Jason.  "It'll take you hundreds of
years to get to either your new world or Conover!  Ask your
computer if you don't believe me.  PF24!  What is closest?  The
target world or Conover?"

    "The target world," answered the computer.

    Before Durdaine could say a word, Jason quickly asked,
"PF24, how far away is the target world, in integer light-

    "82 light-years," came the answer.

    There was silence from the radio.  Jason smugly grinned.
Now HE had the upper hand!  "All right, Excarver, put Dalton and
Monique on the line, and maybe I'll let Conover know where you
are.  I'll even arrange a fleet of personnel transport sailships
from Infinity City to take your people safely to their

    But there was something that Jason did not know about
Excarver Durdaine.  Something that Durdaine was not even
consciously aware of himself.  He ENJOYED his absolute power
aboard the colony ship.  He was absolute ruler of his little
microcosm.  And deep down he had grown used to the power, and did
not want it to end.  Durdaine angrily responded, "MORE of your
lies!  You go to hell!  You've sabotaged our computer just to
give a false estimate, you pirate!  But Dalton will get it fixed.
HE'S Conovarian; one of the Pure!  And YOU'LL never see him
again!  EVER!!"

    Durdaine now shouted at the computer:  "PF24!  Aim the
lasers at the Infinity City sailship, and commence firing
immediately.  Emergency priority!"

    "Firing will commence in 42 seconds," dutifully reported the

    Jason viciously swore back at Durdaine who only laughed.
Jason roared in frustration.  But just before he cut the
connection, he yelled back at Durdaine to tell his damn PF24
computer to reactivate its intuitive hemisphere to maintain the
colony ship.  The colony ship had barely lasted five years
without the repair capabilities of PF24's intuitive hemisphere.
Jason thought angrily to himself:  Why in the hell do I even
care?!  He killed the radio in disgust.

    He did not have much time.  PF24 would already be wheeling
the colony ship's great lasers around for proper aim, opening the

turrets in the sides of the ship, and warming up the reactor that
would supply power for the destructive bursts of photonic energy.
Jason's first post in the Militia Guard had been chief of one of
Infinity City's photonic cannon emplacements.  Knowing the
awesome capability of a good laser, Jason quickly set to work.

    Fortunately, his sails were already all up and ready.  He
ordered his computer to run the gravitonic generator up to full
power.  While the sound of the powerful generator rose, Jason
fired his jets.  His wonderful sailship computer, using the three
little robots, had automatically refueled the jets from the cargo
hold spare tanks while Jason had been incarcerated back on the
colony ship.

    He jetted his ship over to the nearby current spouting out
from the far away whirlpool.  He had rescued the colony ship from
this current, so long ago it now seemed.  His computer reported
that it detected a threatening build up of thermal energy from
the colony ship laser turrets.  That would be their reactors
dumping off excess energy, surmised Jason.  They were ready to

    His sailship entered the huge, raging gravitonic current,
the great, billowing sails caught hold, and away he instantly
sailed at hundreds of times the speed of light.

    Jason watched the astronavigation display, and saw himself
rapidly moving away from the colony ship.  Jason sadly whispered
to himself, "Good-bye, Dalton.  Good-bye, little buddy.  Hope you
and Monique have a good life there."


    Jason leaned back in his pilot chair, rested his chin on his
hand, and absently checked his astronavigation display.  He was
heading down the gravitonic current in the general direction of
Conover.  There, he would request some sort of financial
remuneration for all the repairs he had done to the colony ship.
He had vast amounts of proof.  His computer had dutifully
recorded everything he had done, and had also copied the complete
design of the colony ship by downloading this information from
PF24.  This intimate knowledge would surely prove to the
Conovarian authorities the legitimacy of his claim.

    In return for a suitable reward, Jason would reveal the
location of the colony ship.  Even if the colonists ordered
Dalton to fire up the great engines and move off, the primitive
engines would leave an easy trail of ionic debris for any
sailship to follow.  The colonists would finally make it to their
new world, but only by faster-than-light ships, hopefully
outfitted from Infinity City by Jason himself.

    So, effectively, the rescue mission would be a success.  The
colony ship had been found, and was now safe.  Jason should feel
triumphant.  But, he did not.  He felt alone and empty.  The
sailship was too quiet without Dalton's adolescent voice, always
getting excited about something new that he had just learned.  He
looked over at Dalton's chair where he had spent so much time in
his virtual-reality.

    How had things gone so very wrong?  Of course, GIRLS had
been involved.  Girls always seemed to lead to trouble, thought
Jason.  He sighed, and felt very tired.  He remembered suddenly
that he had not taken the PILL OF LIFE for over a month.  So, he
pulled himself out of the pilot chair, and proceeded down to the
living quarter, where he opened a secret compartment in which he
kept his valuables.  This was where he kept his hand-gun which he
now pulled from his pocket and stored.  They were currently
highly illegal in Infinity City.  Next, he pulled out a little
red velvet bag with a golden rope tie.  Inside was a box made out
of gold that he now opened.  Inside this was another chamber,
hermetically sealed, which he also opened.

    Here were stored row after row of the PILL OF LIFE. Each
tiny bright silver pill, uniquely manufactured for only Jason's
specific genome, was sealed within a hard, clear gelatin shell,
which would only melt after passing the stomach's destructive
acid concentration and entering the proper point in the
intestines.  He pried one out of its holder, made the traditional
sign of thanks across his chest, and gulped it down.  Then, he
replaced the PILL container, and sealed the secret hiding place
back up.

    What now?  He had felt another object in his pocket when he
had removed the hand-gun.  The tape!  He pulled it out.  It was
hard to believe the little plastic cartridge had survived so
much.  He went over to a player, and stuck it in.  He heard the
voice of his parents.  They both said hello.  Then his father
began, in a monotonous, detached voice, the most incredible story
Jason had ever heard...

    Jason had not been his parents only child!  A girl had been
born 75 years before Jason!  A girl named Elise.  After birth,
all babies born in Infinity City were genetically scanned, their
genetic pattern being stored in the Great Library of Infinity
City.  The parents were notified of any defect, and it was their
responsibility to contact a genetic repair specialist to have the
defect removed when the child grew old enough to withstand the

    Elise's genetic pattern was a one in a million pattern of
intelligence, energy, persistence, and other traits that the
Grand Dames looked for in young girls who would then be groomed
and destined for lofty political positions.  Elise's parents,
living by simple means, were overwhelmed by this.  The Larsch
family approached them, and a later marriage was arranged between
their daughter, and a Larsch son.  (JASON WHISTLED TO HIMSELF AT

    Elise grew into a beautiful and intelligent girl.  Her
parents were very proud.  They had no more children so that they
could devote all their meager resources to only Elise.  Her
school performance was above average, though perhaps not as high
as her genetic potential allowed.  She was a popular girl with
many friends, and many interests.

    When she turned 16, her parents gave her an unusual birthday
present.  It was their copy of the marriage contract between her
and Alexander One of the Larsch.  They were to be married as soon
as Elise reached prime child-bearing age, based on her individual
physiology.  For her, this was determined to be 18 years of age,
only two years in the future.

    Her parents had thought that she would be ecstatic at the
thought of marrying into one of Infinity City's most powerful

Families, perhaps eventually becoming one of its Grand Dames.
But, Elise had been horrified by the discovery that her parents
had written her destiny for her, virtually selling her off.  (The
contract contained a substantial honorarium for her parents.
However, they sincerely thought that this was the best of all
possible worlds for her, and never dreamed that she would

    Elise had burst into tears, and fled to her room where she
remained for an entire day.  After that, she was a changed
person.  She felt betrayed to the core by her parents, and would
not listen to any explanation from them.  They tried and tried to
reason with her, but to no avail.  Her performance in school
began to degrade.  She began coming home later and later and was
rumored to be hanging around the seedy area adjacent to the space
port, referred to as the infamous "Port Town."  This contained
temporary accommodation for off-world visitors of limited means.
The night life was exciting and the night-clubs attracted many
Infinity City adolescents.  It was there that she met an
Adventurer who filled her head with exciting stories of far off
worlds with exciting cities and people;  and stories of SPACE
itself where you were free to do as you pleased, and go anywhere
your heart led.

    This was all too much.  Her parents wanted her to be happy
again, and decided one day to let her know that she could marry
anyone that she wished.  They would inform the Larsch that the
contract was broken.  But that night she did not come home.  By
morning her parents were very worried, and contacted the
authorities.  A quick search of the civil computer system
revealed that Elise had just sailed away with an Adventurer,
destination not logged.

    Her parents were devastated.  They blamed themselves, and
would not want more children for a long time to come.
Fortunately for Jason, his father with realistic foresight,
prudently insisted that Jason's mother submit to the removal and
cryogenic freezing of a few egg-cells so they could have more
children later, if they ever changed their minds.

    It took over 50 years for his parents to begin thinking
about having children again.  An economic boom throughout the
Galaxy had increased their business so much, that for the first
time in their lives, their savings was actually swelling.  Year
by year their thoughts turned again and again toward childbirth,
until they made the big decision.  Jason's mother, however, had
long ago reached menopause.  Her ovaries had ended production of
mature egg-cells.  But, she was on the PILL, and in excellent
health, so they had one of their eggs removed from cryogenic
storage, revitalized, and implanted.  Jason was conceived, and
born nine months later.  Actually, after having significantly
passed the "due date," labor had been induced artificially
because, it seemed, baby Jason just did not want to leave the

    Jason grew up, and as soon as he could, stole away just like
his sister on his first adventure, a simple trading expedition to
several Galactic frontier worlds.  Fortunately, he safely
returned, but went out on another and another.  His parents were
very proud of him, but so very terrified that one day he would
not come back.  Somehow, and they never figured out how, he
avoided the Militia service until his late-thirties.  All young
men were required by Infinity City law to join at age 20 or 21.

    During the period when Jason finally enlisted in the Militia
Guard, and was out patrolling the gravitonic currents around
Infinity City, keeping them safe from NEIGHBORS, pirates, and
other dangers, a stranger came to call with an incredible tale.

    He relieved himself to Jason's parents as the Adventurer who
Elise had run off with.  He was now in search of her.  He was
just back after a terrible trip in which his ship had encountered
a gravitonic whirlpool that had slung him close to the speed of
light, and slowed him down so long, it had taken 83 Infinity City
years for him to sail his ship back to Infinity City.
Fortunately, the black hole had mercifully stripped away such
characteristics as his sailship's near-light-speed momentum...

    They had asked him about Elise.  He told them that he had
gone to several worlds, and then arrived at a very developed
world called CONOVER. Here, two identical twin brothers named
Romeg & Stomec, both extremely important members of an upcoming
voyage of colonization to some other world, had fallen
passionately in love with Elise.  (JASON THOUGHT:  MY GOD!
DALTON'S FATHER'S NAME IS ROMEG!)  Suddenly, she left the company
of the Adventurer for Romeg.

    Business on Conover was brisk for the Adventurer, and he
quickly forgot about Elise.  There were plenty of girls
throughout the Galaxy attracted to Adventurers from Infinity
City.  His holds were full of items in high demand all over
Conover.  He stayed for many months, traveling far and wide
buying and selling.

    After about a year, little was left to trade, and it was
time to move on to another world.  He was missing several crew
members, and advertised for more.  Who should show up at his
gang-plank but none other than Romeg himself.  AND, carrying an
infant boy, his son!  The Adventurer asked who the babies' mother
was.  Romeg told him it was none other than Elise.  She had left
the baby with him, and taken his place aboard the colonization
ship, and was on her way to some other world.

    There was a pause in the tape, as Jason's father took a deep
breath then continued.  He and Jason's mother had investigated
this colony ship, and learned that it had been reported overdue
82 year before, and given up for lost.  They told the Adventurer
the same, and that they had not seen their daughter Elise since
she had left with him all those years before.  Then, the man left
them just as mysteriously as he had arrived.

    They were heartbroken and wanted no more children.

    His father said, "Well that's the whole story.  We would
have told it to you face to face, but it would have just been too
hard.  We know how desperately you have always wanted a big
family like your old friend John One.  We're sorry, son.  We both
love you, but we will have no more children.  We just can't
handle the worry of our children going off into space.  It's so
dangerous.  Mother still talks about you coming to work in the
shop.  I know you never will, son.  We're both still proud of
you, though.  You know, people coming by my shop always talk
about your rescue work with great respect and admiration.  I
guess someone really needs to do what you do.  Anyway, hope your
next rescue is successful.  Stay safe, Jason.  And, stay longer
the next time!  Your mother misses you so!"

    The tape ended, and automatically ejected halfway out of the
player.  What an incredible story that little tape had held!
Jason sat there stunned, his heart pounding in his ears.  Dalton

was the son of his sister Elise and Romeg, which meant that
Dalton was also Jason's NEPHEW!  He was Dalton's uncle!  Of
course!  Jason's thoughts exploded through his mind.  THAT
explained his deep, caring feelings for his nephew.  It was the
instinctive Family Bond!  He had a nephew!  A NEPHEW!

    And Monique!  Elise had given birth to her, by Stomec,
aboard the colony ship.  Monique was Jason's NIECE!  He had a
nephew AND a niece!  But they were both back on the colony ship,
and completely unreachable.  He shook his head in confusion.
Dalton and Monique were back aboard the colony ship where Jason
was regarded as a pirate to be shot at on sight.  And, Dalton
trapped there to take care of the silly ship.

    To suddenly discover he was the uncle of both Dalton and
Monique, and that it was now impossible to ever see them was too
much.  Jason had no children of his own, no brothers or sisters,
no cousins, aunts or uncles.  Only his parents, who were both
over 100 years older than him.  He had ALWAYS been so alone.  And
now, he had lost his nephew and niece forever!  He grew
emotional, burying his fists into his eyes.  His great body began
to shake with uncontrollable sobs.

    And his sister!  He actually had a sister that he had never
met.  But she had died in the colony ship's horrible encounter
with the whirlpool.

    Suddenly, he heard giggling!  He turned, staring in
confusion toward the source of the muted laughter.  There were
sounds coming from a large storage cabinet, the one Dalton had
stowed away in that long year before.  It was opening!  There,
inside sat Dalton and Monique grinning out at him.  Dalton, his
dark hair unkempt and dangling down past his eyes said
sheepishly, "Hi, uncle!

    Monique, her dark eyes shining out from her disheveled
blonde hair, said, "That was an interesting tape, wasn't it...

    Dalton then said, "So, how soon can we go back in time and
rescue mom??"

    Jason, in shock at the sight of the two of them now here
with him, leaned back so far that he and his chair tipped back
over, and fell to the floor.  Monique and Dalton quickly
scrambled out of the cabinet, and hurried over to help their
uncle.  Jason was unhurt.  If he had been, if he had even broken
an arm, he would not have noticed.  He looked up from one
concerned young face to the next, and deep within him something
started bursting forth.  A sense of joy he had never felt before
at the realization, the unarguable realization that he now had a
family.  These poor two kids had lost all their parents to
grievous misfortune.  All they had now was Jason.  He warmed with
a strong feeling of protectiveness to both of them.  And, LOVE!

    Jason sat up.  Then, a little nervously, reached forth his
arms and hugged them both to him.  They embraced him gratefully.
Both of the two young people now felt more secure than they had
for a long time.

    Finally they all sat back looking at each other silently,
with silly grins on their faces for the irony of the whole

    Then they found their voices.  Jason wanted to clear
something up right away.  "Dalton," he said very calmly, but in a
serious voice.  "I have to talk to you about something before you
let it get out of hand.  It's about going back in time for your
mother.  You know we can live almost forever because of the PILL.
But sometimes like...  my sister Elise," that sounded amazing to
say, "when someone is killed outside of Infinity City, the family
usually DOES want to do a BOUNCEBACK in time to find them, and
bring them back before the accident.  But... unexpected things
can happen.  You are even required to get direct permission from
the ruling Grand Dame council before you can bring back a
citizen, who Elise of course was.  You need to read some of the
stories that have happened first before you think about it more."

    Dalton said solemnly, "If I can rescue our mother Elise,
Stomec, and Romeg, then I WILL!"

    Jason did not want to get into a discussion about this right
now, and spoil the wonderful feeling of unity between the three.
He shrugged, "That's up to you."  Then he looked at one and then
the other.  And they both smiled so happily at him.  Someone said
it was all like a dream come true.  Then they were all laughing,
and crying, and hugging each other again.

    Jason finally stood, righted his chair, and said brightly,
"Anyway, now that we're all together, we've got to decide on our
next destination.  I've got the ship heading in the general
direction of CONOVER.  We still need to let their authorities
know about the location of the colony ship.  And we need to get

    Monique asked, "How long will that take?"

    Jason said brightly, "Oh not long.  Just a week or two.
Maybe I'll put the squeeze on them, tell them I have a tight
schedule, and only give them a few days to decide to pay or risk
dooming their colonists to wander in space."  He quickly re-
assured Monique.  "We'll tell them where the ship is if they pay
or not."  There was also that small matter regarding Ethera's
claim that she was going to have his baby.  He could offer to
marry her, but there was no telling what Durdaine would do if
Jason set foot aboard the ship again.  The best thing to do was
wait until they got rescued, then make sure the colonists all
knew that it was Jason who was their SAVIOR.  They, Durdaine, and
even Ethera, would warm up to him.  Maybe he would have a son!
He looked quickly at Dalton talking quietly with Monique.  Maybe
a son just like Dalton.  What an odd desire!  His heart had
certainly been going through some big changes lately.

    He continued, "After CONOVER, I'll be anxious to sail back
to Infinity City so everyone can meet you two.  Monique, you've
never even been there!  You'll both have to become registered as
citizens.  You'll even be entitled to the ADVENTURER CHILDRENS'
ENDOWMENT.  It helps out young people who...  Anyway it will
provide money!"

    "Jason?", asked Monique.  "How long will it take to get to
Infinity City?"

    Dalton interrupted, "It took us a little over one year to
get from Infinity City to the whirlpool."

    Jason explained, "But we were going towards Galactic center.
Sailing back out to Infinity City will be quicker because we'll
find faster currents."

    "How much faster?", pressed Monique.

    Jason looked at her, "Well," he guessed, "maybe half the
time, or little more."

    "Six or seven months?", she asked.

    He smiled, "You're pretty anxious to see our world, huh?"

    "Yes.  It has very modern hospitals, doesn't it?"

    Jason frowned, and said slowly, "Yes, of course...  Why do
you ask that?"  Dalton nervously looked away, avoiding Jason's

    Monique delivered the stunning news.  "In about eight
months, I am going to need a nice safe place to have my baby."

    Jason's eyes widened, and he involuntarily looked down at
her belly.  BABY?!  Then he quickly looked over at Dalton who's
face, though dark, was distinctly reddening.  "Is Dalton the...

    Monique laughed gaily, "Of course!"  She reached over, and
hugged and kissed Dalton, who was now very embarrassed.

    Jason's eyes grew wide, and he whispered, "But, you two
are...  I mean your fathers were...  You CAN'T have a baby!
You've got the same mother, and identical twin fathers!"

    Monique said confidently, "That won't hurt anything.  We DID
have the same mother, and both our fathers were genetically
identical.  But, our fathers were from CONOVER and had not one
genetic defect, recessive or otherwise.  On CONOVER brothers and
sisters commonly share their eggs and sperm, through artificial
insemination, of course.  No brother or sister that grows up
together cares to get married.  That's taboo anywhere that's
civilized, and I assume on Infinity City, too."  Jason nodded
vigorously.  "But, Dalton and I just met a few weeks ago.  We
don't even look much alike, pigment-wise at least.  He looks more
like his father, and I look just like my mother."  Jason had a
sudden vision of the shock on his parents faces when they would
see Monique for the first time.  "Everything will be just fine!
You will introduce me as Monique Stomec from the colony ship.
Dalton will remain Dalton Romeg.  I will take Dalton's surname,
if that is traditional on Infinity City.  Which leads me to
another question.  Uncle Jason, as captain of this sailship, can
you perform the time-honored ceremony of marriage aboard a ship
that is away from any port?"

    Jason smiled and shook his head, "Monique, you'll fit in
just fine on Infinity City.  You're are starting to sound like a
Grand Dame already!  Yes, I suppose I can marry you, and give you
away, as well."  Jason looked straight up at the ceiling of the
living quarter, and spread his hands.  He said to no one in
particular, "What an Adventure this has been!"

    He suddenly jumped to his feet.  "This means that before
anything more, I've got to get up to the pilot room, and find a
fast current for Infinity City!"  He dashed out of the room and
up the central chamber ladder to change course for Infinity City.

    Dalton and Monique went over to the couch at the back of the
living quarter.  Dalton looked at Monique, "We could have had the
baby at CONOVER."

    But she disagreed, "No, not there.  Too many bad feelings.
Besides, I want to see Infinity City.  Does Jason have much
family there?"

    "Not much," Dalton answered.  "Just his parents.  He's
always wanted a big family.  He envies all the larger

    Monique interrupted, "Dalton, you mean we'll have
grandparents to watch our children?!"

    "Children?", Dalton asked, uncertain about her use of the
plural form

    "Oh, yes!  I grew up so alone, with no brothers or sisters.
I want to have as many kids as we can!"

    Dalton gulped and grew a little pale, but finally grinned as
he caught the enthusiasm in her bright, smiling, thoroughly happy
face.  "Jason will love to hear that!  And by the way, Monique,
just for the record..."  Dalton knelt down in front of her on one
knee, and took her hands in his.  Her hands were soft and warm
and very delicate.  He felt his face suddenly burning, though her
reassuring smile made him feel so loved.  "Will you marry me, my
darling Monique?"

    She sighed deeply, blinked at him, and held her head to one
side drinking in the moment.  She would never forget the look on
this sweet young man's delicate face.  He was so solemn!  Yet his
dark, comforting eyes were so full of eagerness.  Then she
reached forward and gently stroked her wonderful friends soft
hair.  "Yes, forever," she breathed...

    Jason married them that very day, and they became husband
and wife.  And, on home to Infinity City they all sailed.


    Jason's parents were stunned when Jason showed up one day
with Dalton, Monique, and their new baby.  When Jason Sr. and
Maynyn learned the entire story, however, they became delighted
at being the grandparents of the two charming young newlyweds.

    Dalton, Monique, and their little baby boy moved in with
their loving grandparents (Jason's parents) into the apartments
above the little curio shop, and Dalton began working with his
grandfather (Jason's father) in the little family shop.  Everyone
was blissfully happy.

    Soon, Jason, as itchy for Adventure as ever, sailed away for
Conover to try and wheedle a reward out of the authorities.
Unfortunately, Dalton's new found domestic responsibilities
prevented him from sailing off with Jason.  But he could still
dream of high Adventure out in the Galaxy!  Sometimes he even sat
around the shop idly considering the possibility of going back
into the past to rescue his mother.  If only he had a sailship...

    And in the curio shop where Dalton worked, there was a
strange little object that had been there for a long time.  The
object had unimagined powers that no one knew about...  YET.
Jason, and his good friend John One accompanying him to CONOVER
to help settle a certain score, would learn all about these
powers.  They would eventually become essential for the survival
of Infinity City, and all the worlds of the Galaxy.

    And back on the colony ship Ethera Durdaine seethes with
rage for being left behind by Jason.  The daughter she carries
will take after Jason in many ways.  And then raised by her
grandfather Excarver, leader of the colony ship, the girl will
master the techniques of subtle tyranny.  What will happen when
she discovers a secret passageway into the insane segment of the
ship and learns to influence the mad geniuses to do her own
bidding?  Will the influence of her mother's and grandfather's
murderous hatred for Jason be enough to motivate her to
commandeer the ship to go after him?

    But, all of this continues in the further chronicles of
Infinity City...

                            THE END

   Read the next exciting book in the Infinity City series!

           "SEARCH FOR KATZ" - Infinity City Book #3



INFINITY CITY - A very old, artificial world constructed within
the first event horizon of a nondescript black hole somewhere in
the Milky Way galaxy, populated exclusively by humans.  Highly
sophisticated gravitonic technology allows safe, continuous
suspension of the disk-shaped world, as well as construction of
faster-than-light gravitonic 'sailships' for trading within the
Galaxy, and defense from hostile 'neighbors' also possessing
similar technology.  Political system:  Strict rule by female-
only Council of Grand Dames, each G.D. representing one of each
of the principle Houses or Families of Infinity City.  Chief male
activity:  'Adventure,' defined as 'daring and lucrative Galactic
exploration and trade,' and also compulsory service within the
formidable Infinity City Militia Guard, as required by the Grand
Dames of all Infinity City males.


PILL OF LIFE - Prevents aging.  It must be ingested monthly.  The
ultra-sophisticated biogenetic technology for producing the PILL
is unheard of anywhere except Infinity City.  The scientists of
Infinity City have never successfully manufactured the PILL
outside of the unique gravitonic radiation within the black hole.
Adventurers normally take a large supply, in case they become
stranded.  Unfortunately, the molecular structure of the proteins
making up the PILL are very complex, giving the PILL a shelf life
of only about 25 years.  If an Adventurer is stranded, even with
a large supply he will only stay young for 25 years, and then
begin aging.  The PILL cannot survive cryogenic storage.


SOUQ - Most Infinity City stores or shops, of similar category,
tended to group together.  Any store that is part of one of these
groupings is referred to as a souq.


NEIGHBORS - The residents of Infinity City refer to the few other
cities within black holes as their NEIGHBORS.  All have
degenerated into unstable regimens of tyranny.  Without the
political stability to foment sophisticated biogenetic
technology, they have no ability to produce the PILL OF LIFE.
They began raiding Infinity City merchant ships for plunder, and
also foolishly for the PILL, which these ships carried in
abundant quantities for their crew, though each prescription of
the PILL worked only for a single person's genome.  The raids
grew in daring and number until Infinity City set up its famous
Militia Guard to protect itself and its main routes of trade.


WELL OF THE WISH - a mysterious black and dark red brick cistern,
at the very heart of Infinity City, located above the sparkling
point of the black hole's second event horizon.  Built by the
Original Builders, and one of Infinity City's oldest artifacts.


JOURNAL - Refers to "Infinity City Journal of Recent Adventure,"
a fascinating monthly publication detailing exciting recent
activities of the Militia Guard and private Infinity City
Adventurers.  Highly recommended to all visitors expecting to
participate in local topical conversation.

Distributed throughout the Galaxy by Murdoch Publishing, Infinity


BACK-BOUNCE - A sailship voyaging back in time, and then
returning with everything in the past reverting to its exact
original historical configuration by the time the sailship re-
enters the black hole, as if it had never left.  However, any
object brought back remains in existence.


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