Family Affair
Part 1 - Conception
by Tim Rumph


Chapter Three

Will got a call from Track in the afternoon of Fifthday, asking him to come down to the space port. When he got there, he was directed to the hanger that they had rented and found Quont and Wing Breeze looking at one of the twelve TracBots that had been shipped earlier. It had a hole in the base and the cover over the tractor beam unit was cracked. Will asked, "What happened?"

Quont said, "According to the cargo master it was damaged by a forklift as they were being unloaded. Shi hasnít explained how they managed to do this."

"Where are Track and Slirparton?"

"Slirparton is negotiating with the Cargo Master and the Port Master about damages. The power unit was destroyed and Track has a list of dealers that carry that kind of equipment and is trying to get a replacement."

"We canít get one from our regular suppliers?"

Quont shook hys head. "Slirparton says they donít have any more in stock and wonít have any until next week."

"I guess hy was right about his concerns about the supply of these. If we have to do the demo with just eleven, that will increase the unloading time quite a bit. Anything else?"

Wing Breeze said, "The control system is intact except for a bit of wiring. The mechanism is damaged though, and Brun is waiting for your call to tell hym what parts you need so hy can air ship them."

Quont lifted the damaged unit up onto a work table they had set up and they started taking it apart.


Slirparton came out of the Port Masterís office and Spots ran up and gave hym a hug. Hy asked, "Were you good while I was busy?"

"Yes, Papa."

"Good, letís go see if we can find Peter and your Grandma Andre."

They got on the tram from the spaceport to downtown Amistad which passed the hotel where the Cochrans were staying soon after it came out from the tunnel under the mountains. While they were riding, Spots said, "Youíre talking to Momma and Quont."

Slirparton smiled. "Could you hear what we were saying?"

"No, I could just feel them in your head."

The tram stopped and they got off. Slirparton asked, "Where is Peter?"

Spots closed hir eye and wrapped hir tongue part way around hir muzzle. Shi pointed at a building across the street at the end of the block, about half way up and said, "Up there."

"Very good. Who is with him?"

Shi closed hir eyes again. "Momma Jo and Grandma Andre."

"What about Teri?"

"Donít know." Shi looked up at hir dad. "Why is Teri so hard to feel? Shi doesnít have any empathy."

"Shi just has very good natural shields." Hy took hir hand and they started walking toward the end of the block. Hy continued telepathically, "Your shields feel good. Are you having any trouble with all of these people around?"

"No, Papa. It feels different from home."

"Thatís because theyíre mostly chakats instead of skunktaurs."

"Skunktaurs feel warm and fuzzy."

Slirparton chuckled and got some funny looks from the others crossing the street with them. Hy continued aloud, "I donít think Iíve ever thought about it that way, but being home is more comfortable for me."

They went into the hotel and got into the elevator. They were alone and Spots reached into Slirpartonís pocket and pulled out hys headband. Shi said, "I donít like it when you wear this."

"I know, but it made the Port Master feel better."

"But you never peek."

"Shi doesnít know that."

"I donít want to wear one."

"You might not need to. Weíll have to see when you get older."

The door opened and they went down the hall to the Cochranís suite. As they got there, Peter opened the door and said, "Come on. I made a spaceship."

They ran into the suite. Slirparton gave Jo a hug and then greeted Andre and Teri. Hy asked, "Peter made a spaceship?"

Jo smiled and said, "We went to the Science Museum today. Teri helped him with it. Will said one of the TracBots was damaged?"

"I just came from the Port Masterís office. Shi is looking into it, but agreed to pay for the repairs. Quont said that they will be up most of the night and that Will will stay with them tonight."

"I guess his holiday is over. Iíll pack up a few things and have the concierge send it over there. Are you going back?"

"No, I canít help much with the engineering stuff and I know Skyspot will be happier with Peter."

"You can use Teriís bed in with them. Teri can sleep with me tonight." She stuck her head in the room where Spots and Peter were playing spaceships. "Get cleaned up and dressed. Weíre going down to dinner."


Track joined Will, Quont and Wing Breeze just after midnight. Quont handed hir a container from an all night Chinese food place in the spaceport. Hy said, "Youíre just in time for dinner."

There were only sounds of munching for a few minutes. Will stopped shoveling his Sesame Chicken long enough to ask, "Did you find what you needed?"

Track said, "I found a power unit that should work at a local distributer. They will deliver it in the morning at 06:00."

"Iíve sent Brun a list of what we need. Hy got them to a delivery service in time for overnight air service, so they should be here about that time too."

Quont said, "Thereís not anything more we can do tonight. We may as well hit the sack."


Willís com rang later that morning. He rolled over and tried to ignore it, but it started again, so he pawed around on the night stand until he found it. "Brun, itís 04:00!"

Brun chuckled and said, "The sunís up! Whatís the problem?"

"Not here itís not." Will sat up on the side of the bed.

Brun continued, "The delivery service decided that they could just ignore all the ĎDO NOT TRANSPORTí labels I stuck on that box."

"Damn. What did it do to their transporter?"

"I donít know, and frankly I donít care either. They didnít call me until this morning."

"We have to have those parts today."

"Iím looking for a courier. If I have to, Iíll fly over and bring them with me, but most of the flights are already sold out because of the holiday."

"Those new grinding wheels are coming in today. Iíd rather you stayed there and dressed them. Theyíre too expensive to take chances on. Anybody can bring the parts."

"Iíll make sure you have them, but it will likely be this afternoon your time."

"Looks like another long night tonight. Thanks, Brun."


Later that morning a delivery truck met them at the hanger. Track signed for the power unit and then came in with the others, the power unit floating along behind them. Shi handed a data chip to Will and said, "The mounting arrangement is a little different."

Will plugged the chip into his PADD and said, "Iíve already got the model of the mounting bracket up. I just need to import their model." He looked at the document and started making changes to the computer model. "This will only take a few minutes. This unit is a little smaller than the ones we have been using."

"It also has a little bit greater capacity. Having it in your computer is fine, but what about getting it made?"

"The only load this sees is the weight of the power unit. I found an RP shop that can make the new bracket before lunch." Will pointed at Quont and Wing Breeze who were stringing wires to replace the damaged portions of the wiring harness. "Unfortunately, we canít do anything with it until we get those parts from Brun. They need to go in before the power unit."

Track nodded. "I wish he could send a replacement bezel, but thatís too big to carry on a commercial flight."


Slirparton spent the day as a tourist in Amistad with Willís family. Hy came back into the hanger that afternoon and said, "Look who I managed to find."

Wing Breeze gave a yell as she ran across the hanger and leapt into the arms of a male Caitian. Everyone chuckled as Quont started unloading the robo-cart that was following him.

When she let go of him and stepped back down on the floor, she said, "I didnít expect to see you until I got back."

Shakes the Trees took her hand and walked over to the work table where the others were starting to unpack the parts. He said, "Brun asked if I could bring your stuff, and Rewíamrría told me to come."

"I love our First Wife. Iíll have to do something special for her when we get home." She then said something in Ratarsk and the inside of Shakesí ears turned red. Wing gave him a lick-kiss and said, "Here is the access code for my room. Iíd love to join you now, but weíre going to be busy for a few hours. Iíll see you later, but donít wait up for me."

He kissed her again and said goodbye to everyone before he left.


The demonstration the next morning started at 08:00 on the dot. Slirparton adjusted hys headband and the microphone. "Good morning gentlebeings. Cargo Engineering, Ltd. is happy to introduce the TracBot." A robot settled on the ground next to hym. It was roughly hemispherical and about 1Ĺ meters in diameter. "A revolutionary manufacturing method has allowed us to make the smallest cargo handling tractor beam system available that is capable of lifting standard shipping carriers."

The mechanism under the semi-transparent dome on the top of the TracBot was clearly visible as it rotated. A carrier behind Slirparton rose into the air and slowly spun around. "A single TracBot is capable of lifting and moving an empty or lightly loaded carrier." The doors of the carrier were open and the empty interior could be clearly seen.

The carrier settled to the ground and the TracBot flew over to the pod behind the carrier. "A pair of TracBots can lift a fully loaded carrier." There were now two TracBots attached to the hatch frame of the pod. Another carrier rose into the air and turned slowly.

The doors opened on the pod and the TracBots got to work. Slirparton walked over to a large display unit and said, "In order to save space, we do not use beam deflectors for gross positioning of the tractor beam, but use gimbals instead." The display showed a TracBot with the dome removed, the tractor beam unit swinging around.

"Each TracBot has two beam generators mounted on a rotating plate, allowing moment loads to be supported on any plane."

One of the chakats in the audience asked, "How does a mechanism that small support these loads?"

The sound system they were using amplified hir voice so that everyone could hear hir clearly. Slirparton answered, "We use a process developed by Dr. William Cochran," Will gave a wave, "that allows us to bond a thin layer of Boronike to the high strength steel parts in the mechanisms. This provides the necessary wear and fatigue resistance and also allows us to avoid the necessity of a lubrication system."

"How do you get them to work together so closely? They are handing off containers on the fly."

"I will ask our IT and Artificial Intelligence specialist, Wing Breeze MíBri to cover that."

Wing Breeze stepped up and started, "We have twelve TracBots with us today. They are tied together in a secure distributed network. This control unit is only used for monitoring and processing the images from the cameras we have placed in the pod and is not necessary for their operation."

Slirparton joined the others as Wing Breeze continued. While wearing hys headband assured everyone that hy wasnít influencing them, it also prevented the chakats from reading hym or getting a feeling for the truth of what hy said. Allowing Wing Breeze to handle part of the presentation assured them that she was being truthful.

Wing Breeze wrapped up by saying, "This demonstration will take several hours. If you would like to stay, we have refreshments available. You can leave and return if you like, and we would be happy to send you a com message shortly before we are finished. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask any of us."

Some people started drifting away, while others headed for the refreshment bar. Two solid black foxtaurs approached Will and Slirparton. Will turned to Slirparton and said, "Slirparton, Iíd like you to meet Nova and Nebula. They are both engineers on Chakona Gateway. Nova works in the maintenance department for the station and Nebula works for Gateway Shipfitters."

Slirparton smiled and said, "Will has told me about you. You are Astraís mates. Iím Slirparton and itís good to meet you."

Nebula smiled and said, "Itís good to meet the rest of the family. Peterís told me about his ĎPapa Slirpartoní."


Two and a quarter standard hours into the demonstration, Track heard an unusual noise. Shi walked over to where Wing Breeze was at the monitoring station and asked, "What did I just hear?"

"The power supply in the unit we repaired just quit. What would you like me to do with it?"

A few of those still attending turned toward them. Track said, "Bring it out here. Did you catch the failure on one of the cameras?"

A pair of chakats came up to where they could see the display. Wing Breeze adjusted the controls and a picture came up showing two TracBots attached to the internal structural support of the pod. The end of a carrier could be seen coming out into the central corridor of the pod. It stopped and another TracBot flew over and parked just above one of the first pair. That TracBot then fell down and out of the view of the camera. The carrier moved smoothly into the corridor and toward the door on the opposite end of the pod away from the camera. They had the microphones on the cameras turned off, so there was no sound with the display.

One of the chakats said, "I didnít see you give any commands in the last few minutes."

Wing Breeze shook her head and said, "I didnít. The response you saw was initiated by the TracBots themselves." Two TracBots approached and one settled on the ground near the display, the other going back to the pod. The dome, which had been cracked before, now had a good sized hole in it. There was also a distinct smell of burned circuits.

The chakat asked, "How far did it fall?"

Wing Breeze said, "It was working on the fourth level, so it was about 25 meters."

"Pods usually have floors installed on every level in the corridors."

Track said, "We took them out so that the TracBots could move around more freely."

The chakat turned to Wing Breeze and asked, "Was this part of the plan?"

She shook her head. "No, this unit was damaged in handling in the port."

Track added, "We had to make repairs using a power unit that we havenít used before."

The chakat held up one of the data chips they had been passing out and said, "Iíll give you a call next week. I think Iíd like to take a closer look at these little things."

They both smiled and Track said, "Thank you, weíll be happy to answer all of your questions."


After the demonstration Will, Quont, Track, Slirparton, and Wing Breeze headed back to the hanger followed by the TracBots, looking a little like a small herd of sheep. One of the TracBots picked up the unit that had become disabled during the demo and another got the control unit and audio-video system that Wing Breeze had been using. When they got there, Slirparton pulled off the headband, glad to be back in touch with hys mates, and the four engineers started taking apart the damaged TracBot again.

Slirparton looked outside, glad that hys mates were enjoying themselves, but not being terribly interested in engineering and machinery. Hy saw two people crossing the tarmac headed their way, a medium sized, apparently all black chakat and a small, slim dark brown female mouse morph. As they approached, he could see that the com badges they were both wearing on their tunics were in the shape of a stylized letter F. He reached out to his mates telepathically, "You remember that loose federation of ships I was telling you about earlier. This looks like two of the crew of one of those ships. If we can get some of these TracBots into their hands, it could be a big help in broadening our potential market to operators of freighters in addition to spaceport freight facilities."

Slirparton slipped hys headband back on as hy walked out and met them at the hanger door with hys best marketing smile, "Good afternoon, I am Slirparton, House of Redpaw, child of Randolph and Sweetpaws."

They exchanged the brief hugs considered normal business practice on Chakona and the chakat said, "I am Chakat Arcs Foster and this is Sparks Foster, my partner.

Slirparton gave hir a questioning look and said, "Chakat Arcs Foster?" The chakat just smiled back and didnít reply. "Come in and meet my mates and our partners," and hy turned and led them into the hanger while the four engineers stopped working and turned toward the approaching group. "Shir Arcs, Ms. Foster, these are Chakat Powertracker, child of Bluespot and Starhunter, Quontiale, House of Bluepaw, child of Xantal and Jarad, William Cochran, and Wing Breeze MíBri."

They all exchanged hugs and Sparks smiled at their hosts, "Call us Arcs and Sparks, Ms. Foster makes me sound too old."

Track smiled back, "Then Iím Track and my mate here is Quont."

Will added, "Just call me Will. I remember you two in the back there at the demonstration. What can we do for you?" While Will wasnít party to the earlier telepathic exchanges, he had been working with his partners long enough to know about them being in each otherís heads. He could tell by their body language that his partners considered these two to be people that they could trust, at least for the time being.

Arcs answered, "I was impressed by your demonstration, but about at the end there I saw one of the other units carry this one out and set it down before going back to continue unloading the pod. What happened to it?"

Quont nodded. "This unit was damaged while they were being unloaded." He saw the chakatís questioning look. "It was run into by a fork lift. Weíre not sure how that happened and the Cargo Master is looking into it. Shi said that shiíd let us know what shi finds."

"It couldnít get out of the way by itself?"

Wing Breeze shook her head. "The computers in these things are pretty basic. They wonít Ďwake upí by themselves in response to outside stimuli."

Sparks asked, "Well, you apparently repaired it, what happened then?"

Track answered her, "We had to replace the power unit. I got what, from what Iíve heard, should have been a reliable unit from a company here in Amistad, but it quit before the demonstration was finished. Fortunately, there was some warning so that another TracBot took over for this one before it failed completely. That kept the carrier from being dropped."

"That sounds like a pretty sophisticated control system."

Wing Breeze smiled, "These little things do pretty well but the scope of their operation is limited to what is required to safely load and unload a pod, or do similar things."

Sparks nodded. "Thatís reasonable. What are you going to do with the power unit?"

Track answered, "Iíve called the manufacturer and they are sending a truck over to bring the power unit and me back to their plant so that we can take a look at it."

"Donít let us interrupt you; please keep working."

They got the offending power unit out just as a small truck pulled up outside the hanger. A chakat got out and came over to them. "Hi, Iím Chakat Firebrand, owner of Firebrand Power Systems. I hear one of our power units let you down."

Introductions were made and then Quont lifted the power unit up into the back of the truck while Firebrand and Track got in to go back to the plant.

Sparks looked at the pieces lying around the floor of the hanger. "These are your magic, Boronike coated gears?"

Will picked up one of the pitch pinions. "Take a look," and tossed the pinion to Sparks.

She looked at it, and then handed it to Arcs. Arcs asked, "How do you manage that?"

Will smiled, "Boronike isnít hard to work with, just expensive and hard to get."

"Yes, but the coefficient of friction between Boronike and steel is practically zilch and they are not miscible in any state. How do you get it to stick together?"

"We use a special ceramic coating and mono-crystalline nickel whiskers. The steel sticks to the nickel, which is bonded to the Boronike by the ceramic. It was a process that a friend of mine and I developed a couple of years ago while I was living on Earth. If you search for ĎBoronikeí and ĎJerry Oxendineí youíll find the paper we presented."

Sparks said, "But that doesnít explain how you managed to actually put this thing together."

Slirparton interrupted before Will could begin his answer. You had to watch these engineers or they would give away the whole show without even thinking about it. "That process is still being refined, and involves skunktaur teams."

Arcs grinned and said, "Oh well. Weíre in the ship repair business. There are times when something like this could really come in handy."

Will said, "When my family came to Chakona, I got a tour of the engineering section of the ship we were on. There seemed to be plenty of space in engineering and there were tractor beam units permanently installed."

"Yes, on the big commercial liners like you traveled on, mass isnít so much of an issue. Star Fleet vessels are usually the same, because they have to be able to make repairs while underway or actually engaged in actions with hostiles. We generally donít work on those types of ships, but on small, independent freighters and liners where every kilogram counts and the anti-matter budgets are honed to a razor edge to keep them in the black."

Sparks nodded, "Ship designers usually leave room to get all the pieces in and out, but not always enough for heavy lift equipment. A lot of this stuff is too big to handle by hand even in zero-g. Now, if we can hire Quont here?"

Quont smiled and shook hys head. "I had enough of ships while I was in Star Fleet. I think Iíll stay here with my family for now."

Sparks smiled back, "I thought so, but it was worth asking. We wind up having to dismantle the engineering section and then are working in pressure suits, which slows things down and is a real pain, in addition to the safety issues."

Slirparton asked, "You canít set up air screens?"

Quont chuckled, "You donít want to be behind an air screen when someone punches through it with a high power tractor beam. Part of our training in Star Fleet included experiencing explosive decompression, under carefully controlled conditions, of course. Believe me, itís no fun even if you do survive it."

Arcs said, "These things are small enough that we could just beam a couple into the engineering section. We might still have to work in zero-g, but it looks they can handle anything we should come across."

Will shook his head and held up his hands, "Hold on a minute, these things are made with Boronike, remember? You canít transport them."

"Damn, thatís right. Thatís going to be a bit of a pain."

Slirparton reached out and put his hand on the TracBot hy was standing next to. "On the other hand, they are small enough to go through standard cargo and service hatches. Stellar Federation regulations require that, even on the smallest ships, so our little tools wonít be any problem."

Quont added, "Just make sure you can anchor them to something that can support the loads theyíll be seeing. They have independent drive systems, but the tractor beams have more capacity than the drive system does. You donít want to operate the drives at a high level inside a ship with people around anyway."

Arcs nodded, "Now what do we need to do to get our hands on a couple or five of these things?"

Slirparton took his com out of hys pocket and said, "Let me call Powertracker and see what shiís found." Hy asked hir, and then listened to the response on the ear bud hy was still wearing.

"Powertracker says that shi thinks shiís found a reliable source of power units, and they have enough in stock to replace all of these." He turned back to their visitors. "I think that we can part with a few of them."

Will, Quont, and Wing Breeze watched as Slirparton started haggling with the others. They would have let them go just for the feedback from field use that Arcs and Sparks would give them, but Slirparton wanted to start covering some of their expenses. They had been going through truckloads of money getting them to this point and their investors wanted to eventually start seeing some income.

Finally, Sparks said, "Now these are pre-production units, right?"

Slirparton said, "Will calls them production trial units. Tell you what, if you give us detailed reports about how you use them and how they are operating, weíll give you three for that price I quoted for two, and weíll replace them with production units when theyíre ready, and let you know what design changes we make along the way."

Arcs glanced over at Sparks and said, "Done! Now pick out which three you want us to have and weíll take them over to our shuttle."

They got the three TracBots for Arcs and Sparks and, after locking up the hanger, all walked over to the shuttle, which was parked nearby, followed by the three TracBots. Quont gave them a handheld control unit and a data chip with instructions. Hy also arranged to meet them the next morning for some hands-on training.

After getting them loaded or, rather, watching them load themselves, Will said, "Itís time to meet my wife and our kids for dinner. Would you care to join us?"

Sparks said, "Sure, we donít have anything planned. Sounds like fun. My son and his mate and kids are visiting Amistad, mind if they join us?"

Slirparton slipped hys headband back off as hy said, "Bring them along, Iíll call ahead and let them know weíve got more coming."

Wing Breeze added, "Iíll have to beg off. Shakes and I have a flight to catch. We need to get home because weíve got a family commitment tomorrow."

She hugged everybody and said goodbye to their new friends, and headed to the civilian section of the spaceport. The others went out and caught the tram back to their hotel to meet Jo and the others.


They went by the hotel to pick up Willís family and Skyspot, introducing them to Arcs and Sparks. They then walked three blocks to the restaurant. There was a group waiting for them there, a couple of mouse morphs and three kids. The male greeted Sparks and Arcs with a hug, and was introduced as Sparksí son, Andy Foster. He introduced the rest of the family as they were getting their hugs. Andyís mate was named Mel, and the kids were Eddie, Joan, and Art. Eddie was less than a year younger than Teri and Art had just had his second birthday. Joan was a year younger than Eddie. Jo noticed that the kids called both Sparks and Arcs ĎGrandmaí, but didnít think much about it since Spots did the same with Andre.

Jo sat next to Peter, Track next to Spots, and Mel next to Art, but other than that they were all mixed up. Joan wound up next to Andre and said, as they were sitting down, "My dadís name is Andre. They just call him Andy for short."

Andre smiled at her. "Well, imagine having two of us here at once!"

Joan nodded. "I thought Andre was a boyís name, but youíre a girl."

"Ah, but Iím not a girl, Iím a herm."

"Oh! Like my Grandma Arcs," she said smiling.

"Yes, only I donít have as many feet."

Joan giggled at that, and then the server came up to take their order.

After their order was taken, Will asked Andy, "What do you do?"

He said, "Iím a professor at Dewclaw University."

"Jo and I were over there earlier this week. What do you teach?"

"Physics. Most of my research is in warp theory. Do all of you work for that company making the little robots that my mom was telling me about?"

"Most of us do. Quont, Track, and Slirparton started Cargo Engineering and I came on board a little while ago. Quont, Track and I are all engineers in different fields. I take care of the mechanical engineering and also help with the manufacturing operations. Jo is a surgeon in the hospital on Chakona Gateway and Andre teaches music at one of the schools in Curtisport and performs."

Andy nodded. "I know several people who commute to the station. I wouldnít have thought that they would need a hospital big enough to require a surgeon on a space station, but that place is huge."

"Gateway is very impressive. I never imagined before we came how big it was."

Track came in shortly after they were served and placed hir order. Shi was introduced and sat down next to Arcs just as Joan asked hir, "Grandma, do you know when weíll see Grumpa Neal again?"

"Heíll be here around New Yearís."

"But that means heíll miss Auntie Passionís birthing day party!" said Joan, frowning.

Arcs smiled at her. "I know, kitten, but when you run a space ship you donít always get to set your own schedule."

Track asked Arcs, "Grumpa Neal?"

Arcs smiled. "Heís our father. He runs an independent freighter."

Track thought, Ďour?í and had a feeling that there was a lot more to that, but before shi could say anything Sparks asked, "Did you find out what happened to your power unit?"

"It looks like it was deliberately damaged. I compared it to several that they had in stock and it had definitely been altered. The upside is that the power units that Firebrand makes look like they will work very well in our application and they are already in full production and should be able to meet our needs without any problem."

Slirparton said, "Iíll give hir a call next week and see what we can work out." While hy said that out loud, he also contacted hys mates telepathically. "Do we need to get the local law enforcement authorities involved?"

"They already are. They took the power unit so their forensics team could take a look at it."

"But didnít it come from Firebrand?"

"No, I got it from a local industrial supply house. Some of the components were different from Firebrandís specifications and other units they had in the plant. The officer said shiíd give us a call in the morning to let us know if they found anything. Shi also wants to talk to the Portmaster and hir logistics manager."

Quont asked, "Why do this to us? Who would gain by that?"

Slirparton answered, "I donít know, but I think a check through the public databases for connections between people at the spaceport and our competitors would be worthwhile. Iíll send a message to Wing Breeze and ask her to see what she can find out,"

When they finished dinner, Will said to Andy, "If youíre ever in Curtisport, give us a call."

Andy raised his eyebrows. "Thatís right, Iíll be giving a presentation in Curtisport next week."

"I wouldnít expect a conference in Curtisport about warp theory. Iíd think it would be here or at Dewclaw or Twinstripe."

"There are three manufacturers that have production facilities there. If itís held there we can include some tours."

Will nodded. "That makes sense. Give me a call and we can get together while youíre there."

Andy smiled. "I should warn you Iíll have the whole crew with me. Mel has family in New Bletchley so weíre taking the train over there after the conference."

"I think we can handle all five of you, but Iíd better talk to Jo first. Give us a call on Firstday and weíll see what we can work out."


The next morning Slirparton, Quont, Track and Will met a police detective at the hanger at the spaceport, a hyena morph, Captain Lindrom. They gave hir pictures of the damaged TracBot before it had been unloaded. They also had pictures of the internal damage. The detective then went to talk with the cargo master and the port master and Quont went to meet with Arcs and Sparks about their new equipment.

Most of them flew back to Curtisport on Firstday morning. Jo went down to the Gateway Corporation office in Amistad to use the transporter terminal there to go up to Gateway for her shift. Slirparton and Track stayed to meet with Chakat Firebrand about supplying power units and flew back on Secondday. All things considered, everyone saw it as a successful trip, despite the apparent vandalism. Jo managed to keep busy up at the station, but whenever she had an idle moment, she couldnít help picturing Hughesí face in her mind. By Thirdday, she made an appointment with Yapur, House of Redpaw, a counselor who worked for the station. It happened that Yapur and hys family also lived in Curtisport, but hy worked on a different schedule from Jo so she hadnít run into hym going back and forth to the station.


To be continued in Chapter Four.

Copyright © 2009 Tim Rumph – tarumph AT

Chakats, Chakona and the Chakat Universe are the creation of Bernard Doove and are used with his permission.

Skunktaurs were created by Bob Reijns.

Boronike, Arcs Foster, and Sparks Foster were created by Allen Fesler.


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