"What was the idea of that?" asked Darras angrily. "You are
not supposed to commit a crime on Argonaut. You were there when I told Jezakak
He had sought out the android, and ascertained they were unobserved.
The android looked at him without expression, its eyes unblinking. "I
am now the instrument of another, so it is not your responsibility. In any
case, what crime?" it asked. "There was a tremor, which shifted
the cases. The man was there. I saw an opportunity to fulfil my function.
I lowered my ambient temperature to leave no heat signature, pushed the
case, and left. There was nothing to lose. If the man had survived he would
have been unaware there had been an attempt on his life."
"Nevertheless," said Darras, "you are to wait until you are
offworld before continuing. And do not return to my shop again before you
leave the planet."
"That would have been unlikely in the circumstances," replied
the android, and Darras left it where it was.
Captain Normington had called the leaders of the groups to his temporary
"We will delay our departure until tomorrow to give you time to bury
your fellow," he said at the end of their talk. "If we can assist
with whatever rituals you decide on, please let us know."
Felix Lattif was buried, as that was the custom on the planet. It had not
become crowded yet, so burial space had not become any sort of problem.
All of the members of the two colonies could not attend, but a lot did,
including Eric and Shauna. Celeste went with them. Serena thought it just
as well that she experience the rituals of death, but hoped it would not
intensify her own fascination with it. The ranking officers of the Sieve
also attended, and Celeste eyed Carla Smith curiously. Carla seemed to be
giving all her attention to the other mourners.
Carla was, but she noted to herself the way Celeste seemed to have blanked
out her emotion. Then she realised that Celeste had probably never even
met Felix, so she was unlikely to be affected by his death. She turned and
tried to concentrate on the ceremony. The excess of pheromones was not a
problem out here in the open air, so she simply watched the reactions of
the others. Others seemed to be unaffected by the ceremonies, too. The archaeologist,
and the flower biologist were simply observing what happened. She looked
around for the other biologist, but could not see her.
In an ancient custom the survivors buried the dead and had a party. Zetopek
Lar calmly observed the gaiety around him, and simply noted it as a student
might note the behaviour of laboratory animals. He was interrupted by Brendan
"Read any good hieroglyphics lately, Zetopek?" the latter asked.
"You know my first name?" he said in surprise.
"We met on Ararara Tau," said Brendan, mildly peeved to have been
forgotten. "You were investigating the ruins there."
"Oh, yes," he said. "The planet with the tongue-twister name.
One only finds hieroglyphics on earth, technically,.."
"A flippancy," sighed Brendan. "I should have known better.
You were always somewhat pedantic."
"Thank you," acknowledged Lar. "I pride myself on my accuracy.
It is good of you to recognise me in that."
"So, you two have met?" asked Brildan Furr, joining them.
"Once, on Ararara Tau," said Brendan. "We were both on a
settlement team. They eventually decided the place was not worth colonizing,
but it was interesting."
"Yes," agreed Lar. "The reasons the previous civilisation
had died off were likely to kill off any new ones as well."
As he talked, he took out some keys and idly polished them.
They gossiped about the place for a while, until Brendan moved off.
"I must admit, I don't really remember him at all," admitted Lar,
"but I have a poor memory for faces. But I can identify any old building
I have ever seen!"
Brildan laughed briefly, thinking Lar had meant it as a joke, but broke
it down to a polite chuckle when he realized he had not. He soon excused
himself and turned to move on. Eric ran into him, and looked apologetic.
"Oh, sorry, sir," he said in mild dismay. "We shouldn't have
"That's all right, son," he said. "We'll be running into
each other a lot for a while. You're all with the Tolians, I guess."
"Yes sir, except Celeste," said Eric. "She's from the Sieve."
"How are you, Celeste?" he said. "We must get to know one
another. We'll be shipmates for the next fortnight."
She looked at him appraisingly, and wondered what he intended, but she said,
"I'll probably be at school most of the time, sir."
"Call me Brildan, kids," he said. "Or Mister Furr, if you
want to be formal. We'll see each other on board, I'm sure."
"I don't think that's a good idea," she said firmly, and he looked
taken aback, but then grinned.
"I didn't mean anything by it," he said with a smile. "I
just enjoy the company of children. But I guess you could be right."
"That was a bit rude!" expostulated Shauna after they had left
him. "I'm sure he didn't mean any harm."
"My mother says not to talk to strange men," said Celeste primly.
"If he gets to know my mother, I'll talk to him."
"If you're trying to cook up a romance with your mother," said
Shauna with a grin, "he's not much use. He'll be leaving with us in
a few weeks."
"Why would I.." began Celeste, but she stopped, thoughtfully.
It wouldn't do any harm to try to fix Serena up with a beau. Speaking of
"Time to go home, honey," said Serena, appearing from the crowd.
"Have you got your bear?"
"I put it in the luggage on the shuttle," said Celeste. "It's
on the ship already, I guess."
"I see the shop is closed already," said Serena.
"What shop?" asked Celeste.
"The one where you bought the bear," said Serena. "He must
have decided there was no more business to be got from the Sieve, so he's
"He didn't sell it to me," Celeste said. "He gave it to me."
"Oh!" said Serena. If the shop had still been open she would have
gone and made enquiries, but they were almost back on board, so she did
not pursue it. She might have found Darras hard to find. He was already
back in the suburbs of another town, planning for his next creation.
The accident had thrown off the schedule, but time was one of the least
concerns for a ship which traveled between stars. There was no particular
time when they had to arrive. Serena found herself on duty at a temporary
setup where the newcomers were asked to walk through a sensor array. Celeste
came up to her.
"What is this for?" she asked curiously.
"It scans the travelers for nasty germs and suchlike," answered
Serena. "They've been on this world for a while, and they might have
picked something up, and they come from planets where they might have picked
things up that they are immune to, but we aren't. Germs can be very deadly
on a closed ship."
Celeste considered asking what 'immune' meant, but decided it was not necessary.
She sat patiently and watched the settlers line up and go through, each
one naming himself or herself, and then pass through into the small, comfortable
shuttles. Each time the machine would announce, "No dangerous viruses,
no destructive germs, no observable genetic defects." She noticed Professor
Lar hovering in the distance.
"I'm going to the loo for a minute, dear," said Serena suddenly.
"Keep an eye on the line. Make sure all the settlers go through the
doorway. You don't have to do anything. If there's anything shows up the
machine will make a noise. If all these so far are clear, the rest almost
certainly are. I won't be a minute."
She dashed off, and Celeste took her seat. Almost immediately Professor
Lar broke off from a conversation he was having with the two biologists
and came over.
"Hello, my dear," he said with an unpractised smile, which came
out more as a leer, "I see you've been left in charge."
"Yes, Professor," she said neutrally.
"I wonder if I might go around you," he said. "I have been
scanned a lot lately, and I'm worried that the excessive radiation may be
damaging my molecular structure."
Celeste pondered her instructions for a moment. Did the Professor constitute
a settler? She decided the best thing would be to allow him to go through,
but before she could speak Brendan Bock broke in.
"It's not a harmful scan, prof.," he said cheerfully. "Don't
Lar scowled, noting that Serena had reappeared in sight. "So you say,
but it is radiation. Any radiation can cause subatomic vibrations. This
radiation penetrates our bodies, so it must be potentially harmful."
"You need to go through to get to the shuttle," observed Illana
dispassionately. "If you want to go up in the last goods shuttle, you
would still have to have a checkup later."
"The goods shuttle?" he said eagerly. "Ah, yes. I should
like to go with my equipment in any case. It is very delicate."
"I'll go with you, if you like," said Brendan. "I'd like
to do the same. I had my germs analysed a few days ago. It's not as comfortable."
"Who needs comfort?" asked Illana. "I'll walk down with you."
The three wandered away, and Celeste watched them. She did not mention their
intentions to Serena. If they did not want to be subject to the scanner,
it seemed a good thing to her. She waited until Serena was finished, spending
some of her waiting reading through her diary on her portable terminal.
She presumed that since Serena did not need to be scanned, neither did she,
and so it proved.
The large goods shuttles did have some seats, and there were a few crew
who traveled with them. They did not question the desires of the three scientists
to travel with their delicate machinery, and the three looked for space.
"Are there any vacant seats?" asked Illana coolly. "You wouldn't
want to stand for a sub-orbital trip. It would be worse than a bus, and
not even any straps to hang on to."
"What's a bus?" asked Brendan in puzzlement.
"A primitive people-mover," replied Lar. Now that they were to
travel on this shuttle, he was calmer. "They have room for passengers
to stand as well as sit."
"That's very well-informed of you," said Illana with respect.
"I am a historian," he said with pride.
"Any way, there are a few seats still," said Brendan. "It's
a bit of a struggle to get in them with all the cargo packed in, but we'll
"I might join you, if there's room," she said thoughtfully.
"What on earth for?" asked Brendan, then hurriedly withdrew the
question. Maybe she wanted to be with him! That icy shield might hide a
secret longing! "You're welcome of course," he added quickly.
"I like roughing it," she said, "and I prefer to avoid crowds."
Illana informed the supervisor of her decision, and he crossed the three
off his list for the passenger shuttle. She sat with them as the door closed.
If Brendan had been hoping for some revelation, or obvious thawing, he was
disappointed. As they took off and soared towards the Sieve, she maintained
a very reserved demeanour. When they arrived she departed with a polite
The Sieve's clocks had been adjusted to local time, as the stay was so long,
otherwise there would have been a shipload of passengers with dislocated
internal clocks, or jetlag, as it was first called. They were in different
decks, and Bock made sure Lar was comfortable in his quarters before finding
his own. He watched Lar key in his entry code, and move inside, then said
In the small quarters allotted to him, Lar took a brief survey of the room,
then, after assuring himself that his luggage had been correctly delivered,
walked straight to the computer terminal and called up the research he had
been working on earlier. He ignored the small meal that had been left for
Brendan Bock, meanwhile, walked through the corridors of his temporary new
home, disdaining to use the turbolifts or other quick methods of transit.
He wanted to get a feel for the place, perhaps a bit of exercise as well.
Perhaps he was stiff after the shuttle trip, and needed to stretch. Whatever
the cause, he covered a good bit of territory quickly. He walked around
a few decks, and noted where he was and was not allowed to walk freely.
On the bridge, Jack Normington found himself glad to be back in the restrictive
uniform and space of the captain again. This was home, and the landfalls
might be fun, and a diversion, but they were just vacations, and now he
was back in his office-home.
He took the Sieve out of orbit himself, although it was unnecessary. Any
of his immediate juniors could have done it. The death of Felix Lattif was
a misfortune, and he had met the man long enough to have decided he liked
him. In fact, the man might have been captain material himself, if he had
not decided to become a pioneer. However, one man was never irreplaceable,
and they would soon elect his successor. When they were on their way he
stayed for some time in his command seat, enjoying the feeling of being
in the right place again.
He passed the navigation over to a junior officer who obeyed the simple
commands he was given, and brought the Sieve into its path for Regula IV.
They moved to sublight speed.
Serena and Celeste unpacked their luggage, which was reasonably modest in
size, and she and Celeste went down to the shuttle bay to fetch her Kritonian
panda. It had been lying loose in the shuttle, probably too awkward a shape
to be packed away. It had been sitting in an unused chair, and Celeste had
greeted it with, "You can stop supervising everything now, Teddy."
"Teddy's not very original," said Serena, "but it'll do."
Serena was surprised at its size. It was almost a meter tall. She picked
it up, and it was light enough for a young girl to play with. It looked
heavier. She passed it to Celeste.
"It's a lovely doll," she said. "And he gave it to you?"
"I got the idea he was pretty rich," said Celeste. "I think
he just does the shop like a hobby. The way he talked."
"Can you move its arms or anything?"
"Oh, it can move a bit. It's voice activated. Clap your hands, Teddy."
The two hands of the panda came together slowly, with a slight whirring
"It's a bit noisy," thought Serena. "Perhaps it wasn't good
enough to sell. But it's a beautiful gift for Celeste."
"It knows a whole lot of commands," said Celeste. "It's keyed
to my voice. He did it in the shop. Would you like it keyed to your voice
"No, but show me how, in case," said Serena, with interest.
Celeste told her the method, then played with it for a while. She started
to set it walking back to the cabin, but it was too slow. She started carrying
it, but Serena ended up carrying it most of the way. Back at the cabin,
Celeste gave Teddy a few commands, then sat him down by her while she downloaded
her diary into the main computer.
Security on the Sieve was mostly a formality, and the various officers either
patrolled set areas, or waited in their ready room for some alarm, drinking
non-alcoholic beverages, reading or studying, or simply gossiping. However,
the two new groups represented unknown quantities, so security was increased
in their areas. It might be lowered again if no disturbances occurred, but
probably not, since two weeks of extra duties was not an onerous load.
Serena apologised to Celeste for the extra hours she would be left alone,
but surprisingly Celeste was unperturbed. She simply asked if she could
go and play with her new friends. She left her new toy sitting in pride
of place at her computer, and skipped off down the corridors.
The Tolians had a deck allotted to them, and were in comfortable quarters.
Married couples and their families were up to four in a unit, and singles
were in groups of two or three, depending upon the size of a room. The rooms
were small but comfortable. Like most of the ship, they were quickly convertible
to a number of uses. A command to the central computer could produce a liveable
room from a storage facility in a few minutes, or vice versa.
There was an atmosphere of gloom in the Tolian area, and Celeste was surprised
to find herself feeling uncomfortable. She began in a quiet way to ask how
the death of Felix affected them, and was upset when Shauna cried.
"I haven't had much to do with people dying," she said. "My
daddy died when I was young, but that's all. Mummy cried a lot, but it was
his job. He was an explorer. It was always a chance he could die. I guess
that's why I hate space ships."
"Felix was such a nice man," wept Shauna. "It's not fair
that it should have been him. His wife is distraught."
"At least he didn't suffer," said Eric.
Celeste shifted unhappily, and changed the subject.
"Why are you going there?" she asked. "What's so good about
"Well, I guess we're going because our parents are taking us,"
said Eric. "They want to live somewhere where they are their own bosses,
out in the open."
"It's supposed to be just perfect for humans," said Shauna, wiping
away her tears. "The weather and the air are just right, and so is
the gravity. Maybe they go together."
"But they won't be their own bosses," said Celeste with a frown.
"There'll still be someone in charge."
"But they'll have their own farm, or business," said Shauna eagerly.
"They just have to make it run properly, and nobody will bother them.
We just have to make a town, so the scientists can come and explore the
Something of the same subject was being discussed in Captain Normington's
little office. Zetopek Lar had come calling.
"Good day, Captain," he said, peering around the doorway after
it had opened. Normington looked questioningly at him, and repeated, "Come
"Commander Arres said I might speak with you," he began. "I
"Yes, of course," said Normington warmly. "I had hoped to
catch up with you and Professor Gramm on Argonaut, but you only arrived
at the last minute. A tragedy about the Professor."
"Indeed," said Lar. "I know something of your own work, Captain.
I saw your report on Denexis in the Proceedings. Very thorough."
"Thank you," said Normington, a warm flush of pleasure suffusing
his face. "I haven't even seen them myself. One of the problems with
interstellar travel. You write them, send them, and never hear. I was very
impressed with your writings on Deneb."
They gossiped animatedly for the best part of an hour, interrupted occasionally
by some minor decision Normington had to make by intercom. Eventually Lar
asked, "I would very much like to be able to study all the archaeological
data in the Sieve's computer files. Especially your own. Is it possible
that I might be granted access?"
"I see no reason why not," said Normington with a smile. "I'll
see that you get some access codes delivered."
Lar then departed with his usual distracted air.
Celeste walked alone along the corridors, taking in everything around her
anew. She became aware that Mister Furr was hovering ahead of her. I wonder
if he's waiting for me? she thought uneasily, and moved off in another direction.
Better to avoid him, she thought. She sighed, and went off to have a look
at the other lot of settlers.
The Ardurians had settled in similarly, but the atmosphere here was quite
different. They had not known Felix, so there was not the same overlay of
sadness. She was greeted by some of the children she had played with, and
their parents. She gossiped happily with them.
The Ardurians were more like farmers than the Tolians had seemed. Perhaps
it was because they were still behaving naturally, not bowed down by unexpected
sorrow. She met Beryl and Belinda, two girls she had met previously, who
showed her around.
The Ardurians generally found the accomodation luxurious. They had come
from a rather primitive planet, and were used to a hard life. The children
were treating the surroundings with glee, bouncing on the beds, generally
doing minor damage, but still careful of such things as water, which was
scarce on their planet. It was scarce on the Sieve, too, but never wasted,
as everything aboard was recycled.
Beryl introduced her around, and she met her parents, Jarran and Arandnia
Dezic, and Belinda's father, Fillat Bleek. Jarran had the usual pointed
beard, and was a rather stern and reserved man. His wife was also rather
pinched, but they received Celeste with an old-fashioned courtesy. Fillat
Bleek was a rather slow thinker, obviously going to be just a farmer, and
not entirely comfortable on the starship. Belinda obviously managed to control
him very effectively. Her mother had died years before, when she was very
young. Celeste ran around with the children, bounced on beds with them,
and startled them by doing a somersault from the bed to the floor.
"We have a gym on board," she told them. "You'll be doing
somersaults by the time we get to Regula IV."
She took a few of the children to show them some of the recreational facilities,
including the Sims.
"You can only go in there with an adult," she told them. "I
guess your parents wouldn't know how to work it, though."
"They know about them," said one of the boys defensively. "We
just don't got any. Maybe one of the Sieve people might take us in?"
"I don't know," said Celeste thoughtfully. "My mother is
working mostly. Maybe Counselor Smith, if you ask her. She's nice."
Brendan Bock and Illana Borzovska, like Lar in the other camp, were each
entitled to single rooms, because they were basically strangers, come in
to give advice, but not part of the group. Brendan gathered his courage
and dropped into Illana's room, and admired the amendments she had already
made. The room already looked lived-in. She was in fact sharing, but her
room-mate was not there yet. Space was at a premium, so she had decided
it would be best to share. She preferred to live alone, but her room mate
would be out most of the day, when she would want to spend time on the computer.
It should be possible to seem to live normally, without letting her room
mate see too much of her.
"Have you met the brains trust of the group yet?" he asked. "I
didn't get a chance to speak to you much on Argonaut. We arrived a bit late
in the piece."
"Yes," she said calmly. "But we should get to know each other
well on Regula. We'll be pretty much the experts on plant life there."
"How did you get to Argonaut?" he asked curiously. "There
weren't many ships in orbit."
"I got there long ago," she said with a smile. "I took the
opportunity to arrive early and have a long holiday in the jungle there.
It has a very interesting biosphere."
"You studied its microorganisms?" he asked.
"No, not really," she laughed. By god, she really is perfect!
he thought. "I just walked with a backpack. I really roughed it. I
didn't even take a small matter replicator."
"Do they make small replicators?" he asked in surprise.
"A small joke," she said in amusement. "I know enough to
live off a jungle, even here. I did take some rations, though, just in case.
I can survive fairly well. I'm an Aquarian."
"Oh," he said in surprise. "I'm a Libran, but I don't take
too much notice of astrology. It's not all that popular today."
"Nor do I. It's nonsense. I meant I'm from Aquarius. I was born there."
"Oh, were you," he said blandly, then decided to admit, "I
have no idea where that is."
"It's a planet almost completely covered in water," she said.
"We've developed underwater cities. I can live off algae if I have
to. But I prefer a good steak."
He laughed, and they parted after determining to study the records of Regula
IV together. He mentioned that he himself was from Ardura, but had not lived
there for a long time. When he had left, Illana sighed and went back to
work on her computer. A nice man, and good-looking, but he would be repelled
if he really knew her.
Serena enjoyed a few moments of peace while Celeste joined her friends,
and decided to make a rare visit to O'Riley's Bar. As she walked in she
realised that an older man had matched her step. Not all that much older,
she thought, and not too bad looking, recognizing Brildan Furr. He eventually
"Good day, young woman, are you going for sustenance?"
"For a drink, yes," she answered doubtfully.
"Would you mind if I joined you," he asked. "If you're alone.
I don't see anyone I know, and I hate to drink alone."
Serena was flattered, and agreed. They ordered drinks from Leanne Dramm,
who worked behind the bar, and took them to a table. She noticed that Michael
O'Riley was watching them.
"It's flattering to be picked out of a crowd," she said with a
tinge of sarcasm, which he missed.
"It's not entirely random," he said with a smile. "Your beauty
makes you stand out. I hope you don't mind my saying that?"
It doesn't make me stand out so much that you noticed me in my Security
uniform, she thought with a smile, but she said, "What woman would
mind you saying that?"
"You're Celeste's mother, aren't you? I'm Brildan Furr. With the Ardurians."
"How do you know Celeste?" she asked in surprise.
"She was playing with our children on Argonaut," he said. "A
lovely child. I see where she gets it from."
Serena was amused at the clumsy attempt to ingratiate himself. She was aware
that he would be leaving the ship in a couple of weeks, so there was no
prospect of a romantic dalliance, but there was no need to be brutal.
"I'm Serena Moulton," she said. "I thought Celeste was playing
with the Tolian children."
"I meant 'our' in the sense of the group. This idea of splitting us
up in case we didn't get along is nonsense. But I suppose it doesn't matter.
We will be separate on Regula, at least spatially. I have to admit I am
a bit of a stranger to both sides. I am Ardurian, but I don't live there,
and I only arrived on Argonaut the day they were leaving."
Did you, now? thought Serena curiously.
"Where is Celeste, by the way?" he continued.
"She's actually down in your area," Serena replied. "She's
playing with the children again."
"I was hoping to say hello again, before we part company," he
said, a bit diffidently. "For some reason I think she seems to be avoiding
me. I don't know why. I'm worried I might have offended her somehow."
"Well, as you say, you won't be meeting again," said Serena, suspicion
beginning to tinge her speech. He was showing more interest in Celeste than
He realised he might have said too much, and hastily added, "Of course.
I was just curious. But I would certainly like to speak with you again sometime
soon. Just a bit of social intercourse, the pleasure of having dinner with
a beautiful woman, perhaps?"
"Well, perhaps," she said, mollified, but still suspicious. "We'll
have to arrange it later."
"I'm sure we'll run into each other from time to time," he said.
"The ship is not that big."
"You'll usually see me in a Security uniform," she said. "I
get all over the ship."
No harm in warning him that it might not be politic to mix too much with
They parted politely after she had allowed him to buy her another drink,
and she sat musing as Andrew Black pulled up a chair and joined her.
"Is that my competition?" he asked. "A man needs to know
what he's up against."
"I'm not aware of any contest," she said with her eyes wide open
in mock surprise. "Mr Furr has just asked me to dinner, that's all."
"I keep asking you to dinner, without much luck," he protested.
"You took me out to dinner on Argonaut," she said mildly.
"I meant just the two of us," he said.
"You'll just have to get used to not having any more luck," she
smiled. "The pleasure of my company at work will have to do you."
Andrew grinned, and said, "You can't blame a man for asking."
"I might blame myself if I said 'yes' to anything," she responded
When he had gone, Michael O'Riley moved silently over, and asked, "Is
he troubling you?"
Serena looked up in surprise, but smiled. "No, thank you though. Luckily
he does take 'no' for an answer."
"But he keeps harassing you."
"I don't mind. I don't think he knows how to talk to a woman without
propositioning her. He may be getting some 'luck' elsewhere, but he's not
with me. But he doesn't press too hard. He's not too bad. He just lacks
all the social graces."
O'Riley smiled. "I guess I'll have to take him in hand and teach him
gentleness and compassion."
"Well, get him to wear a name-tag afterwards," grinned Serena,
"so I'll still recognise him!"
In the meantime, Celeste had returned to her room. She turned on the computer,
and began by opening up her diary. Soon a highly colored version of the
day's events was typed in and saved. She began to play around on the computer,
with the panda sitting on its own chair beside her, its eyes seeming to
take everything in.
The Sieve flew silently on.
On to Chapter 4, or a dignified