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MISSION REPORTVessel A3-77, Voyage 036D51. Crew T. Parreno, N. Ahoya, E. Nimkin.

Transit time 5 days 14 hours. Position vicinity Alpha Centauri A.

Summary. The planet was quite Earth-like and heavily vegetated. The color of the vegetation was predominantly yellow. The atmosphere matched the Heechee mix closely. It is a warm planet with no polar ice caps and a temperature range similar to Earth tropics at the equator, Earth temperate extending almost to the poles. We detected no animal life or signatures (methane, etc.) thereof. Some of the vegetation predates at a very slow pace, advancing by uprooting portions of a vinelike structure, curling around and rerooting. Maximum velocity measured was approximately 2 kilometers per hour. No artifacts. Parreno and Nimkin landed and returned with samples of vegetation, but died of a toxicodendron-like reaction. Great blisters formed over their bodies. Then they developed pain, itching and apparent suffocation, probably due to fluids accumulating in the lung. I did not bring them aboard the vessel. I did not open the lander, or dock it to the vessel. I recorded personal messages for both, then jettisoned the lander and returned without it.

Corporation assessment: No charge made against N. Ahoya in view of past record.


Yeah. You remember good, Sigfrid. When I was crying, it was about my mother. Partly

You told me that, Rob.

Right. And I close up. Sigfrid waits. I wait, too. I suppose I want to be coaxed some more, and after a while Sigfrid obliges me:

Lets see if I can help you, Rob, he says. What do crying about your mother, and your fantasies about anal sex with Dane, have to do with each other?

I feel something happening inside of me. It feels as though the soft, wet inside of my chest is starting to bubble into my throat. I can tell that when my voice comes out, it is going to be tremulous and desperately forlorn if I dont control it. So I try to control it, although I know perfectly well that I have no secrets of this sort from Sigfrid; he can read his sensors and know what is going on inside me from the tremble of a triceps or the dampness of a palm.

But I make the effort anyway. In the tones of a biology instructor explaining a prepared frog I say: See, Sigfrid, my mother loved me. I knew it. You know it. It was a logical demonstration; she had no choice. And Freud said once that no boy who is certain he was his mothers favorite ever grows up to be neurotic. Only

Please, Robbie, that isnt quite right, and besides youre intellectualizing. You know you really dont want to put in all these preambles. Youre stalling, arent you?

Other times I would tear the circuits out of his chips for that, but this time he has my mood gauged correctly. All right. But I did know that my mother loved me. She couldnt help it! I was her only son. My father was dead dont clear your throat, Sigfrid, Im getting to it. It was a logical necessity that she loved me, and I understood it that way with no doubt at all in my mind, but she never said so. Never once.

You mean that never, in your whole life, did she say to you, I love you, son?

No! I scream. Then I get control again. Or not directly, no. I mean, once when I was like eighteen years old and going to sleep in the next room, I heard her to say to one of her friends girlfriends, I mean that she really thought I was a tremendous kid. She was proud of me. I dont remember what Id done, something, won a prize or got a job, but she right that minute was proud of me and loved me, and said so But not to me.

Please go on, Rob, Sigfrid says after a moment.

I am going on! Give me a minute. It hurts; I guess its what you call primal pain.

Please dont diagnose yourself, Rob. Just say it. Let it come out.

Oh, shit.

I reach for a cigarette and then stop the motion. Thats usually a good thing to do when things get tight with Sigfrid, because it will almost always distract him into an argument about whether I am trying to relieve tension instead of dealing with it; but this time I am too disgusted with myself, with Sigfrid, even with my mother. I want to get it over with. I say, Look, Sigfrid, heres how it was. I loved my mother a lot, and I know knew! she loved me. I knew she wasnt very good at showing it.

I suddenly realize I have a cigarette in my hands, and rolling it around without lighting it and, wondrous to say, Sigfrid hasnt even commented on it. I plunge right on: She didnt say the words to me. Not only that. Its funny, Sigfrid, but, you know I cant remember her ever touching me. I mean, not really. She would kiss me good night, sometimes. On the top of the head. And I remember she told me stories. And she was always there when needed her. But

I have to stop for a moment, to get control of my voice again, so I inhale deeply and evenly through my nose, concentrating breath flow.

But you see, Sigfrid, I say, rehearsing the words ahead of time and pleased with the clarity and balance with which I deliver them, she didnt touch me much. Except for one way. She was very good to me when I was sick. I was sick a lot. Everybody around the food mines has runny noses, skin infections you know. She got me everything I needed. She was there, God knows how, holding down a job and taking care of me, all at once. And when I was sick she

After a moment Sigfrid says, Go on, Robbie. Say it.

I try, but I am still stuck, and he says:

Just say it the fastest way you can. Get it out. Dont worry if you understand, or if it makes sense. Just get rid of the words.

Well, she would take my temperature, I explain. You know, stick a thermometer into me. And shed hold me for, you know, whatever it is, three minutes or so. And then shed take the thermometer out and read it.

I am right on the verge of bawling. Im willing to let it happen, but first I want to follow this thing through; it is almost a sexual thing, like when you are getting right up to the moment of decision with some person and you dont think you really want to let her be that much a part of you but you go ahead anyhow. I save up voice control, measuring it out so that I wont run out before I finish. Sigfrid doesnt say anything, and after a moment I manage the words:

You see how it is, Sigfrid? Its funny. All my life now what is it, maybe forty years since then? And I still have this crazy notion that being loved has something to do with having things stuck up my ass.


Classifieds. | Gateway | Chapter 25



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