original story by S Sizemore
rewritten by Cheryl Petterson

(Standard Year 2239)

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There was only one life-form reading coming from the wreckage. The surprising thing was that there was anyone left at all - at least, it would have been surprising if the sensor readings hadn't indicated that the survivor was Antari. The captain had beamed down a small landing party; himself, his First Officer, and Lieutenant O'Niall, the person on board most familiar with Antaris.

The planet, which had been nameless, was newly christened Blakely, after the ship that had crashed there three months before. The distress signal had been received and a starship had finally arrived to search for survivors. Out of a crew of thirty-four, there was only one. The planet itself was classified as capable of supporting humanoid life, but the accommodations were anything but pleasant. Infertile, rocky soil, mountains and little else but cold.

The landing party materialized on a steep, snow-covered hillside. Large boulders gave some protection from a stinging wind. The tiny shuttle lay further up on the hill, the damage it had sustained evident even from a distance.

"Readings indicate the survivor is in the shuttle," Lieutenant O'Niall reported, checking her tricorder.

"Well," said Captain Matthew Decker, "Let's go introduce ourselves." Their approach must have been heard, because a well-aimed stone came flying out the open door of the shuttle, neatly knocking the captain off his feet. "Hey, hold it, we're Federation!" O'Niall called.

As Decker stood up and dusted himself off, a wary head inched around the door. Large purple eyes opened wider, and a girl of about fifteen stepped out onto the hillside. There were a few seconds of silence before the captain said, "I'm Captain Matthew Decker of the U.S.S. Constellation."

A mixture of emotions crossed the girls' face; fear was replaced by surprise, relief, and then embarrassment. She was blushing when she said, "Sorry about the rock, I've been having some trouble with - I'm Ruth Valley."


Captain Decker insisted on beaming down to the starbase with her. "It's on my way," he said cheerfully as he accompanied her into the transporter room.

Ruth smiled. He was nice. A little overbearing, but nice. During the week she'd spent on the Constellation he'd made it a point to spend some time with her every day. He was busy, it wasn't his job and it surprised his crew - bits of thoughts she had picked up from the people around her. He also had a reason, which he was about to bring up again.

He stopped her before they got on the transporter disks. "You remember what we've been talking about," he reminded.

"Yes, Captain."

"Your father was a fine officer, in and out of Fleet. I think you might take after him. You're used to ship life, born to it, and very few people are. Think about it, and in a couple of years, if you're interested, I'll do everything I can to help you get into the Academy."

"I will think about it, Captain Decker," she assured him.

"Good." They stepped onto the platform and he ordered, "Energize."

In a couple of years if I'm interested he'll do everything he can to help me get into the Academy. There. I've thought about it.

And with that, Ruth promptly disregarded Captain Decker's plans for her future. She took the first available transport to Beta Antares 4.


Randal was impossible to disregard. Ruth hadn't been surprised to find her raman waiting for her. What did surprise her was what Randal carried.

"My guitar!" Ruth exclaimed, and immediately took it from her grandmother's hands. "And my tapestry!" She grabbed that, too, clutching both to her. "I thought..."

You left them at Srel Kahara.

I'd forgotten. It seems so long ago.

You must take them with you to Terra.

To Terra? But, raman...

You are Human as well as Koltiri.


Your choice, ani Ramy.

I would rather return to Rhiannol.

You don't belong. Perhaps not on Terra either. You must learn for yourself.

Ruth pulled away from the mind link and stared at Keheil ani Rosana. She was beautiful, her manner gentle but implacable. And she spoke for Zehara. Her mother's mother was throwing her off the planet. She looked away, suddenly ashamed of herself. She had no idea what she had done to so offend Antares' Goddess, but she knew there was no appeal.

"I'm sorry." She spoke aloud, and in Anglo-Terran.

So am I. Randal took her arm and led her toward one of the commercial port facilities. I think you'll enjoy Terra, once you get used to all the people, she told Ruth cheerfully. At least, so Ramy told me. I've never been there myself.

There was only the mildest curiosity in Randal's tone, and Ruth wondered why her grandmother thought she'd be any more anxious.


Ephraim Valley felt old. It was a fact that he was one hundred and thirty-eight Standard years old, but that usually caused him no concern at all. He was a big, powerfully built man with wrinkled brown skin and white, grizzled hair and full beard. He had been born in a farming community on Gan Dalman, a third-generation colonial who had come young to Terra to study music and had stayed to teach philosophy. He looked to be in his late sixties or seventies. Unlike his wife of ninety-five years, he refused any form of cosmetic or biological rejuvenation; that smacked too much of eugenics for his taste. Once, though, he had accepted a renewal of youth from his Antari daughter-in-law - nothing more than a rejuvenation of the cells in his body. That had been some forty years ago, just before Rachel died. His only granddaughter at the time, dead at fifteen trying to attain the state of empathic healing abilities the Antari called keheil. In that trial, one either lived and was successful, or one didn't live. No blame was attached if one failed - no stigma was attached to being a failed keheil. One was simply dead. He didn't know if there was any grief. He had studied the philosophies of many alien worlds, but he was the first to admit he didn't understand them. Perhaps Yonaton had. Yonaton had certainly accepted it. His eldest daughter had died in the attempt, while his youngest had lived. What had he - my Yonni - thought of that?

I'll never know, Ephraim thought with a heavy sigh. His son - his only son - had died four months earlier - God only knew where - along with his beautiful wife, Ramy. All my children are dead. Why do I grieve so? I've had a long, full, happy life. He had received a tape only a month before the accident. Yonni had been proud and happy, bursting with good news.

Ruth's keheil! And Ramy's going to have another child! It's a son, Abba, a son! We're going to call him Benjamin. Ruth can hardly wait, she's so excited about having a brother.

A grandson! Mazel tov, my son.

And there's more. They're retiring the Blakely. We'll be moving back to Terra. It will be so good for the children...

Then the Blakely, an old, worn-out ship on her last voyage was caught in something called an ion storm. The first reports said that all were lost. But soon after came the news that there was one survivor. Only one out of thirty-four names that had filled Yonni's messages home for over forty years. Ruth was alive, the granddaughter he hadn't seen since she was three. The granddaughter Tova refused to meet for fear of loving her and losing her the way they had lost Rachel. But Ruth was alive, not only through the keheil trial, but through the crash. The flesh of his son's flesh, flesh of his flesh, survived. It should give him some comfort.

Comfort? Is there anything left in me to be comforted? I'm old, every one of those people - people I knew, people Yonni loved, Yonni's family away from Terra, Yonni's wife, his son, my son, my grandson, all dead, all lost to me...

Pull out of it! Retreat! Think!

Yonni! I'm so old, so lost...



Ruth looked down at her feet as she walked up the noon-lit street/ Ephraim shifted his chair slightly to look down from his roof to better watch a glint of gold moving toward him/ Ruth fought a desperate inner battle to regain self. The heat was real, the dry air and blue sky, the old, tawny-colored, thick stone buildings with flat roofs, the sharp sloping and twisting of the narrow street, quaintly dusty - it didn't have to be dusty - all that was real. The undertone of sibilance was real, thick with thoughts blocked out, faint but still felt, sea-like, ignored.

She was real - but who? Ephraim/Ruth, man/girl, Terran/Antari, ending/beginning... She/He saw, different eyes, different views, same scene. His thoughts were hers - or were hers his? Strangers, both of them, aliens dumped onto the wrong planet. He had called out in grief, her empathy and the link between grandfather and grandchild had answered it, and had caught her. She absorbed him, but was unable to answer his grief.

Take it away!

I can't! I'm sorry!


Ruth blinked, then stood shivering, cold with terror. The house was before her and she was herself again. All her shields were locked tightly back in place. She looked around nervously, wanting to run all the way back to the port.

Only a few steps more, she told herself. Take them!

How do I face them?

She shifted her guitar case from one hand to the other and discovered that she had backed away instead of moving forward.

"Shalom," a voice said from above her head. Only seconds before, that voice had been her, deep, rich, a little gravely - and more heavily accented than her father's. She looked up, recognizing him from a hundred tapes.

"Shalom, abba," she called back. She knew it wasn't the correct term, but she'd never heard him called anything else.

He smiled, looking like Yahweh in a good mood, then his head disappeared from sight, leaving her alone again in the street. She set her guitar down and deliberately unclenched her fists, wiping sweaty palms on her shorts. She tried approaching the door again. Before she could knock, it flew open. A woman with red hair and her father's eyes - only hostile - stared at her.

"I'm Ruth," she told her grandmother. For agonizing seconds, the thoughts were too fierce to block. There were few articulated words, only feelings of distaste, fear, anger she looks like Yonni. An alien that looks like Yonni. At least Rachel looked like what she was sudden shame and still-too-real grief.

Arms came around her, pulling her inside the house. Her grandmother's voice, warm and sincere, said, "Welcome home, dear."


Distantly, near the front of the house, a door slammed. It had to be Ruth. No one slammed a door quite like Ruth. Smiling with anticipation, her grandfather turned off the reader and took out the book cassette. He was carefully placing it in a file tray on the desk when she came rushing in. She sprawled into a high-backed chair and grinned at him.

"Shalom, Abba."

"Good afternoon, dear."

"Is it? Afternoon, I mean."

Her eyes and cheeks were glowing and he wondered when she had last slept. "Where have you been keeping yourself?" he enquired.

"Wasn't I home yesterday?" she wondered.

He shook his head. "It's been about three days."

Her hands flew to her face, covering a blush. "Sorry. I've been in Leningrad, working for Daystrom. His multitronics theories just aren't working out but he won't accept suggestions from a mere under-grad."

"Isn't Dr. Daystrom the computers wizard?" Ephraim asked, a little puzzled.

Ruth's grin was wolfish. "He was. I don't like him much."

"I thought you were a marine biologist."

"I am. But I don't want to specialize in just one field. That would be dull. Daystrom hates my thesis."

"The Terror of Alterra strikes again, I see. It's an appropriate nickname, I must admit."

Ruth shrugged, but the grin remained. "I have to keep busy, there's so much to do on Terra, and so much to see and so much to learn and even though I'm going to live forever it's a big galaxy and Terra's just the beginning and if I want to get even a part of it done... where's Minneapolis?" she interrupted herself.

Ephraim smiled benignly, well used to his granddaughter's manner. "North America. Why?"

"I signed up for some physics classes and one of them's there."


Ruth stared disgustedly at the stack of tapes that all had to be read by tomorrow. Maybe this time she really had gone a bit too far. Grayson gave more homework than was humanly possible to finish if one wanted to eat or sleep or take any other classes or have anything approaching a social life. Then, of course, Ruth reminded herself, I'm only half Human.

She sighed. It wasn't that she couldn't do the work, but there was that eating and sleeping and social-life stuff. In four weeks she had watched a lecture hall go from packed full to a scattered, intense few - plus herself. Grayson was into the theory and practice of practical astro-physics and most of his students were dewy-eyed aspirants to Starfleet Academy. Ruth ignored their enthusiasm in pretty much the same way she had ignored Captain Decker's and tried to enjoy herself anyway. Grayson was no help at all. Where Daystrom had presented a challenge - she so loved to take down pompous, arrogant windbags - Grayson was just a very nice man who probably never left the campus dome or did or said anything even vaguely controversial.

And musing about it isn't getting the work done, is it? she chided herself. She knew she should just drop the course... And admit defeat at the hands of a mere mortal? Nonsense! Get it done, girl!

Scowling, she picked up the cassette on the top of the stack. The title was dry enough to choke a camel - then she saw the author's name: Spock.

Oy god, a Vulcan! I'll die of boredom!


"Ruth, where the hell have you been?"

It was Jim Alexander, her teaching assistant for the music classes she had been persuaded to teach at Berkeley. Her grandparents appreciated the extra income. She smiled as he sat down on the bench next to her. "I've been studying," she replied.

"And letting me teach all your classes, which I won't be getting the credits for." He seemed more than a little impatient. "What wild whim have you gone off on now?"

"I don't go off on whims. I'm an impressionable sixteen-year-old who goes through phases." She batted her eyelashes at him, then added, "physics."

He shuddered. "You're not going to make Sol go nova for the fun of it or something, are you?" Her innocent routine never effected him the way it did others - which was one of the reasons she liked him.

"I hadn't thought about it," she returned.

"Don't. Why don't you stick to music?"

Ruth hefted her guitar case. "I do. In fact, I took three hours yesterday to transpose some Vegan star songs."

Jim jumped to his feet. "What?! Give!"

She opened the case and rummaged around for several seconds. "Ah." She tossed a cassette to him.

He held it greedily. "I forgive you all your transgressions."

Ruth giggled. "Even that time..."

"Even that." His grin faded as she stood. "Hey, where are you going?"

"To the library," Ruth called over her shoulder as she walked away. "I've got a date with a Vulcan. I think I'm in love."

"For the fifth time this week, no doubt," Jim called after her. She didn't see it, but she heard the doubletake. "A Vulcan?!"

She laughed the rest of the way to the library.


"Talk to me," she told the computer terminal after making a few unauthorized adjustments. The things one could get away with when one had a faculty ID was truly amazing. Which was why she had chosen the Berkeley Information Center over Leningrad or Tel Aviv or Minneapolis or Miami. Here, if anyone noticed, she could bluff her way out of whatever trouble they wanted to get her into. She was glad she had decided to make Terran law one of her early studies.

"Working," the computer replied presently.

"Personal data on a Vulcan physicist. Name, Spock

The computer thought about it for a while before it flashed a picture onto the screen. "Spock," it assured her. It went on giving all sorts of other data. "Son of Sarek, ambassador to Terra from Epsilon Eridani also known as Vulcan, one of the founding members of the United Federation of Planets...

"Enough," Ruth interrupted. She studied the face for a few moments. "Not bad." The computer reserved comment. He wasn't exactly handsome by Human standards, but Vulcans have a charm all their own. Or at least character. Or so she assumed, having never met a real live one. His face was long and angular; the pointed ears and upsweeping eyebrows heightened the angularity. His skin was pale, vaguely green. The eyes were dark, hooded, half-concealed, showing no emotion. His nose was straight, long, somewhat ascetic. The mouth was fuller than normal for his race, she thought, or maybe she just liked giving a hint of sensuality to a face so totally lacking expression. His hair was black, cut so that the straight bangs covered his forehead.

She smiled at the unseeing picture and introduced herself. "Ruth Valley, terribly illogical but incredibly brilliant. Let's see just how smart you are."

An hour later, she had to admit that even she was more than a little impressed. Among his other accomplishments were published papers in most space science related fields and in such diverse areas as psychology and literature. He was also a Fleet officer on active duty on board the U.S.S. Enterprise where he was not only the Chief of Sciences, but First Officer as well. Ruth knew from her brief stay aboard the Constellation that handling both jobs was no easy task.

His age was thirty-two.


"Abba, can you believe it? I know he's Vulcan and they're smarter than anyone else except me but he's so young at least for a Vulcan and he was the first Vulcan in Starfleet and he's more than a soldier because he taught at the Academy and..."

Her grandfather was juggling a trio of oranges but still listening to the breathless ramblings of the hurricane that had fallen into his life. The two of them were having breakfast on the flat roof of the old house. Ruth was alternately watching the fast-moving fruit and staring out at the harbor. When her mouth wasn't full of rare roast beef - and sometimes when it was - she was talking.

"You've done nothing but go on about this Vulcan for the last week," Ephraim said.

"Have I been home all week?" Ruth asked, interrupting her own enthusiasm.

"Intermittently. Now what was it you were asking?"

"How does he do it?"

"I wouldn't know, dear."

Ruth laughed as a sudden idea hit her. "I'll have to do a complete genetic profile, but I bet it would work."

Ephraim let the oranges fall with a sudden triple thud and looked hard at his grandchild. "What are you up to now?"

"Of course, a Vulcan/Human/Antari hybrid might be difficult, but we have an old saying on Antares about females and rocks..."

"Ruth Maxwell Valley ani Ramy, just what are you talking about?"

"Senda. Mating for evolutionary purposes. Think of the contribution we'd make to the Federation!"

"I doubt your Vulcan infatuation is Jewish, and, unlike a Human I could name, Vulcans do not marry off of their own world."

"I wasn't talking about marriage, abba. Only..."

"I know, dear. Don't mention this latest fantasy to your savta, please."


"Dr Grayson, do you remember those tapes you assigned by Spock of Vulcan?"

"Yes, Miss Valley, I recall them. Why?"

"I've been reading more of his work and it's fascinating. Did you know he says that in every Academy lecture I've been able to find? Along with 'indeed' and 'logical'. Anyway - "

"How do you have access to Starfleet Academy tapes?" Grayson interrupted.

"It's a long story. Anyway, I was wondering if you knew him, or more about him. I know it's a big galaxy, but..."

"I have met Commander Spock." Gray answered tightly.

"Is he like all Vulcans?" Ruth asked excitedly. "I mean, not that all Vulcans are alike, but they've got a reputation, you know, and I know you probably didn't talk much but shop because I imagine you met him at physics conferences and such...

"Actually, I've seen him at both professional and family functions." Grayson's voice was bitter. "You wouldn't like him."

The words actually made Ruth pause. "Family?" she couldn't keep herself from asking. "He's Vulcan."

"And Human. Like you, he's a hybrid. And my cousin. His mother is my aunt."

"Really? Half Human? Then it might really work. Thank you, Dr. Grayson!" She rushed off, ignoring the professor's puzzled annoyance.


"What have you got there?" Ephraim asked. They had decided to give one of their impromptu concerts in Red Square that evening, and instead of her guitar, she was carrying an oddly shaped stringed instrument.

"It's a lyrette," Ruth told him.


She shook her head. "Vulcan."

"Where'd you get it?"

"Jimmy helped me make it."

"How does it work?"

"I don't know yet, but if it's got strings, I can play it."

"Not tonight. Go get your guitar."


"Do it. I don't mind when you pretend to be unemotional and, god forbid, logical, but I will not put up with playing duets with an instrument that you don't even..." Ephraim paused, then sighed. "Ruth, how long are you going to keep this up?"


"Taking on all of Terra isn't challenge enough for you, is it?"

Ruth looked confused, with none of the guilt at being caught he expected to see. "What do you mean?"

"That you're a competitive creature and you seem to have found someone smarter than you. And it just so happens he isn't Terran. So you've decided that since you can't beat him, you'll join him."

She blinked. "I have?"

He nodded sagely. "You think his brilliance is untouchable. He's not an angel and you're not Lot's wife. Give it a try. Look at it, at him. Only you know how brilliant you are. Don't join him, Ruth. I guarantee you won't turn into a pillar of salt."

Ruth frowned. Ephraim could see the arguments in her mind, along with the fear of and hope for failure. After all, if there really was someone smarter, better, more brilliant than she then the burden of being the best would be lifted from her young shoulders. Yet, how bitter that lifting would feel...

"Oh, what the hell," Ruth said, then smiled and went to get her guitar.

It's our curse, Ephraim thought sadly, but proudly too. And our blessing.



Dave Maxwell winced and continued walking, pretending not to hear. That didn't stop Ruth from calling after him again, more loudly. He had hoped to get out of the house without running into her. He knew what she wanted, and would have been happy to do it - if only she wasn't his cousin. He wished to god he had never, never mentioned the Clave to her. But no, in a moment of insanity after winning a particularly exciting race, he had been fool enough to tell a pretty, enthusiastic girl all about his exploits. Now she wanted to see it all. But he knew her. Seeing it would not be enough. She'd get a needle and start racing and get herself killed and then he'd have to explain it all to Uncle Ephraim - and what was worse, to Aunt Tova.


Dave groaned and decided to stop before he was felled by a flying tackle. She'd do it, and how would he explain the bruises? And, in the end, was there really any way out of it? She'd keep at him and keep at him until... Oy vey. He turned.

"Yes, Ruth?"

She caught up to him, breathless, her eyes shining with hope. "You going up to the Clave?"

He sighed, but answered truthfully. He didn't have any particular experience with Ruth herself, but he remembered how her mother had looked at him when he'd once tried to lie to her.

"Yes, Ruth."

"Can I...?"

"Yes, but only as a groupie."

She grinned triumphantly. "Sure. What else would I want?"

Dave kept silent on that one. "And," he admonished, "no "David." At the Clave I'm Barak."

She lowered her eyes. "Yes, David," she answered meekly. "I mean, Barak."

"Save it for the Clave," he growled, and started up the street again. He heard her grumble to herself as she followed him, "Barak. That's a bit pretentious, isn't it?"

He left it. If she thinks I'm pretentious, wait till she meets Cobra and Wizard and Trickster - and Kamikaze.


"Why is it called a needle?"

"I thought I told you not to ask any questions," Barak reminded her sternly.

"Well, I want to know," she insisted. She turned back to Cobra, who was friendly, charming, and more than willing to explain things to her. He smiled triumphantly over her head at Barak, and she heard Barak mutter angrily, "I knew it." as he stomped away. She sighed, almost sorry for always exasperating her cousin.

Cobra was tall and slender with a neat beard framing his handsome, mahogany brown, Ter-African features. He draped his arm around her shoulders and led her towards his needle. "Where'd Barak find an Antari?" he wondered.

"I thought Clavists didn't ask each other personal questions," she replied.

"I wasn't exactly askin'," he returned, smiling down at her.

"Oh," she said. "That was 'what's a nice girl like you' line."

"Right," he grinned. "Now this," he said proudly as they reached a small black craft, "is the Cobra."

Ruth stared. The Cobra was a long, sleek, thin, tapered wedge, a four-engine, winged craft. Two engines were mounted at the rear of the fuselage, with another on each wing. "Why wings?" she asked.

"For atmospheric maneuvering," he explained. "Same for the shape. See why it's called a needle?"


"The shape, girl! They look like old-style sewing or hypodermic needles."

"They do?" Ruth blinked. "I've never seen one of those."

Cobra leaned down, "Confidentially, neither have I. But that's the story and if you're gonna be a Clavist, you'd better stick to it." He winked and she giggled. "Come on, I'll show you the cockpit."

"Why's it called...?"

"That you're not ready to know. Come on."


While Cobra and Barak were out racing, Ruth found herself accosted by two other Clavists. They hustled her into an empty room, closing and voice-locking the door behind them. The short, pretty female of the pair stood in front of her, hands on hips and demanded belligerently, "You're not going to do anything I'm going to be ashamed of, are you!"

Daphne Gollub. Of course, Ruth thought. I should have expected this. Where David goes, Daffy goes. Not that she'd ever admit to doing any such thing...

"Hi, Daphne," Ruth replied, then flashed a smile at the male with her. "Hi Ted."

Daphne turned her exasperated gaze to the gangling, mournful-looking, sleepy-eyed boy at her side. "She follows me everywhere, you know," she declared.

"I do not," Ruth protested.

"Then what are you doing here?"

"Barak brought me."

"What did you blackmail him with?"

"You maybe?"

Daphne snorted in disgust. "Everywhere," she muttered.

"I'm Basset," Ted Mancini told her helpfully. "She doesn't race so she's just Groupie."

"Agreed," Ruth returned. "But 'Basset'?"

"He's an overgrown basset hound puppy," Daffy enlightened her. "Now go away."

Ruth decided not to ask what a 'basset hound' was. She'd look it up later. She knew Ted as an engineering student; serious, inquisitive, and someone she'd never suspect of leading a secret life. But Daffy, now - Daffy she simply had to annoy.

"I can't, you locked me in."

"She just wanted to make sure you don't know us," Ted informed her.

"Of course not."

"Are you going to become a regular - or god forbid, a racer?" Daffy demanded.

Ruth shrugged. "I haven't decided yet. Te - Basset, you have a needle?"

Basset smiled shyly. "Not yet, I'm in transition."

"That means he's building one," Daffy explained.

"Congratulations?" Ruth wondered.

The smile became full. "Definitely."

Daphne said the key phrase clearly and calmly and the door opened. "And don't follow us!" she called over her shoulder.


It was less than one week later that Ruth got her name.

Ted - Basset's needle had limped back from a test run. His sensors were only working intermittently and Barak was furious. With himself for breaking Clave security by opening a com link to the crippled needle, then taking his own out to play sheepdog to the novice. "He's a puppy, I can't help myself," he explained to Ruth and Daffy.

What he told Basset was, "Go ahead, get yourself killed! Get us all caught! Get the Clave closed down! Bring the Hunter home for dinner!"

Basset winced and looked even more mournful than usual.

"Hunter?" Ruth asked.

"A legend. A ghost ship that adepts use to scare novices," Daffy explained.

"It's no legend," Barak said sternly. Daffy stuck her tongue out at him.

Ruth cleared her throat and suggested, "Maybe I can help you with your sensors, Basset. I know a little about computers."

Barak glared. Basset grinned, his brown eyes lighting up with enthusiasm. "That'd be great! Come on!"

It only took 45 minutes for Ruth to find the trouble, and less time than that to fix it. "That should do it," she announced.

"Thanks," Basset said. "I'll take her up and..."

"Oh no," Ruth insisted. "If I've made any miscalculations, I'll pay for 'em. I'll take her up."

"Barak!" Basset called. He and Daffy came running up immediately. "She wants to fly my needle!"

"No," Barak told her.

"Why not?"

"I said no!"

"But why..."



Barak calmed himself. "For one thing, you don't know how."

Ruth shrugged. "The controls aren't much different than a shuttle's. They actually look simpler. And I can fly a shuttle," she pointed out.

"Needle are different. People get killed in needles."

"I won't."

"It's your needle, Basset," Barak glowered. "Tell her no."

Basset went pale and shook his head. "You tell her, I'm not going to."

"And even if he does, I heard Cobra offer her his," Daffy added. Ruth grinned at her.

"What!" Barak shouted.

"Go on, let the mensch try," Daffy continued.

"You've got money on this, don't you?" Barak accused.

"Five hundred credits that it would take her less than a week to become a racer," Daffy agreed blithely. "Gage thinks you can talk her out of it."

"Gage! Can't you keep away from that Haven?!"

"Excuse me," Ruth interrupted, "but I need an environ suit, don't I?"

"Of course you do," Barak agreed with a cold smile. "And I need a million credit insurance policy on your life and note from you explaining to..." He stopped short. "Damn you, Ru - Mensch!" He turned and stormed away.

"I'll help you find something," Basset said.

The next day, she started work on her own needle.

Continued in Part Two

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