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GATEWAYS SHIPS

The vessels available on Gateway are capable of interstellar flight at speeds greater than the velocity of light. The means of propulsion is not understood (see pilot manual). There is also a fairly conventional rocket propulsion system, using liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen for attitude control, and for propulsion of the landing craft which is docked into each interstellar vessel.

There are three major classifications, designated as Class 1, Class 3, and Class 5, according to the number of persons they can carry. Some of the vessels are of particularly heavy construction and are designated armored. Most of the armored class are Fives.

Each vessel is programmed to navigate itself automatically to a number of destinations. Return is automatic, and is quite reliable in practice. Your course in ship-handling will adequately prepare you for all the necessary tasks in piloting your vessel safely; however, see pilot manual for safety regulations.


What you usually do or what the course programmers the Corporation keeps on the payroll to do this sort of thing for you usually do is pick four numbers at random. Then you cycle the fifth digit until you get a kind of warning pink glow. Sometimes its faint, sometimes its bright. If you stop there and press the flat oval part under the teat, the other numbers begin to creep around, just a couple of millimeters one way or another, and the pink glow gets brighter. When they stop its shocking pink and shockingly bright. Metchnikov says thats an automatic fine-tuning device. The machine allows for human error sorry, I mean for Heechee error so when you get close to a real, valid target setting it makes the final adjustments for you automatically. Probably hes right.

(Of course, learning every step of this cost a lot of time and money, and most of it cost some lives. Its dangerous being a prospector. But for the first few out, it was more like suicidal.)

Sometimes you can cycle all the way through your fifth digit and get nothing at all. So what you do is, you swear. Then you reset one of the other four and go again. It only takes a few seconds to cycle, but check pilots have run up a hundred hours of new settings before they got good color.

Of course, by the time I went out, the check pilots and the course programmers had worked out a couple hundred possible settings that had been logged as good color but not as yet used-as well as all the settings that had been used, and arent worth going back to. Or that the crews didnt come back from.

But all that I didnt know at the time, and when I sat down in that modified Heechee seat it was all new, new, new. And I dont know if I can make you understand what it felt like.

I mean, there I was, in a seat where Heechee had sat half a million years ago. The thing in front of me was a target selector. The ship could go anywhere. Anywhere! If I selected the right target I could find myself around Sirius, Procyon, maybe even the Magellanic Clouds!

Teacher got tired of hanging head-down and wriggled through, squeezing in behind me. Your turn, Broadhead, she said, resting a hand on my shoulder and what felt like her breasts on my back.

I was reluctant to touch. I asked, Isnt there any way of telling where youre going to wind up?



WHAT DOES THE CORPORATION DO? | Gateway | Classifieds.



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