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Chang Encounter

A singleship pilot is never supposed to leave her ship. They gave us eight Mark III drones to do the survey work. Those drones also worked great as extended lens arrays for remote imaging and beacons to mark interesting systems - in case something bad happens to the singleship and its pilot in some other system and word never gets back home. That's not something they emphasize in the recruiting program, but it happens more often than we like to think about.

So as interesting as the conjoined worlds looked, I let a couple of my drones to the fly-around survey while I hung back in a stable orbit around the pair. One of my drones didn't come back from a look at the umbilical of tangled tree-like limbs that linked the worlds. I'd already left a drone beacon at my second stop, and I for sure had to leave another one here, but damned if I was going to leave this system - not yet halfway through my circuit - already down three drones.

So I broke some rules. I left the ship - hey, despite the note in my permanent record, I never "landed" on any stinking planet. I was still two hundred klicks above the surface, pretty near the barycenter. I got my damned drone back - even though I had to cut it loose and scrape the slime off it, and I even got a sample of native life to bring back. I even got to name it: a quadragon - one head, four eyes, four wings and four limbs, each with four very nasty claws. One slug from my handy "personnel protective device" - otherwise known as a 4mm gauss pistol, and it had one very splattered brain.

My punishment was to get sent back to Chang and Eng with the survey team. I spent almost two years as a lander pilot on the Vasilev, ferrying a bunch of scientists back and forth. That didn't look too good on my permanent record either. The mission evaluation said I was "better suited to missions not requiring interactions with other crewmembers". Bite me. They transferred me to the Hercules Sector, and I was back running singleship circuits by '89.

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

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