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Chang and Eng

The Survey Office has a lot of work to do (there are over 16,000 stars within a hundred light years of Sol), and not enough money. After the War, they decided the best way to meet their goals was through the use of singleships. Now, at eight meters in diameter, they were about as small a starship could get, and even for the single occupant, it wasn't exactly luxury city. If there was a way to get any computer built after the dawn of the twenty-first century to survive a jump while up and running, they would have dispensed with the pilot too. But somebody has to run the checks and restart everything. Of course, as Lathan Miles kept pointing out, they could have trained a monkey to do it.

Typically we did a ten jump loop from a base site, giving each system a once over to look for something interesting. Every system was unique. Even if it was just a bunch of rocks and dust, there was always something a little unexpected to keep you on your toes. But after a few loop tours, it got to be a little routine. Singleships never got the prime systems anyway, normally just the marginal Ks, odd doubles and low Ms.

It was the fourth jump of my tour in '85 when I popped into a double star system: an F8 with a M3 about 1.6 AU out. It was listed as low habitability probability, based on the red dwarf in the hab zone, but what I found was pretty much unique. There was a pair of planets about a third of an AU off the red sun - too far for life from their own sun, but the F8 warmed them nicely. Since the M3's plane was nearly perpendicular to its orbit around the bigger sun, those worlds got a fairly constant bit of light, too.

I found it strange that the only gas giant in the whole system was a runt closer to the M3 than the twins, but as I got closer to those two worlds, my jaw hit my cramped little deck. The damn things were conjoined! Link together by some braid of tree-like things hundreds of kilometers high. The bigger twin looked like it had the better ecosphere - more water and atmosphere anyway, but they were both living worlds.

And if that wasn't weird enough, what my probes found when they landed was even stranger...

-from Jaynee Fourier's Memoirs of a Lonely Scout, Chiron Press 2298


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