The Colors of Space (Chapter 8, page 1 of 15)


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Chapter 8

He saw the girl again next day, when they checked in for blastoff. She
was seated at a small desk, triangular like so much of the Lhari
furniture, checking a register as they came out of the Decontam room,
making sure they downed their greenish solution of microorganisms.

"Papers, please?" She marked, and Bart noticed that she was using a red
pencil.

"Bartol," she said aloud. "Is that how you pronounce it?" She made small
scribbles in a sort of shorthand with the red pencil, then made other
marks with the black one in Lhari; he supposed the red marks were her
own private memoranda, unreadable by the Lhari.

"Next, please." She handed a cup of the greenish stuff to Ringg, behind
him. Bart went down toward the drive room, and to his own surprise,
found himself wishing the girl were a mathematician rather than a medic.
It would have been pleasant to watch her down there.

Old Rugel, on duty in the drive room, watched Bart strap himself in
before the computer. "Make sure you check all dials at null," he
reminded him, and Bart felt a last surge of panic.

This was his first cruise, except for practice runs at the Academy! Yet
his rating called him an experienced man on the Polaris run. He'd had
the Lhari training tape, which was supposed to condition his responses,
but would it? He tried to clench his fists, drove a claw into his palm,
winced, and commanded himself to stay calm and keep his mind on what he
was doing.

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