Author : Dennis Von Euw

“ 'X-ray 3' to 'Harvest Queen', come in, over”

“This is 'Harvest Queen', what is your status?, Over”

“We've completed the survey on the asteroid. It shows no transuranics, and damn little heavy metals. The bulk is just stony regolith., over.”

“Understood, 'X-ray-3', stand by to return to Mother.”

“Are you nuts?”, asked Jarvis. “You didn't say a word about the crystals. The lab boys back on Earth have been screaming for them for years!”

“Relax. Has ol' Smitty lead you wrong yet? This is our lucky day! Ten years we've been pushing one bucket or another around the Belt together, and what do we have to show for ourselves? Nuttin', that's what. This is our chance to make good. The Captain never offered us a sign-up bonus when we came aboard, and we don't owe ship-stores a deci-cred. We'll plant our own beacon on this lump, and come back on our own ship some day and clean up!”

“I don't know. Everybody we've talked to says Capt. Erickson is no-one's fool, and not a man to cross”, replied Jarvis, “but ya haven't steered me wrong yet. Do it.”

After placing their own device on the surface, the pair made their way back to the scout ship.

“ 'X-ray 3' to 'Harvest Queen', ready for take-off, are you in range? Over”

“Roger X-ray, begin blast.”

“Damn! Negative burn, I say again, negative burn, We can't get the ship to lift, over”

“Acknowledged. Stand by”

“Well Captain, you were right. Those two couldn't be trusted. Luckily you already knew about the crystals down there.

“Luck be damned! I've used that rock to test new men for years. Yes, there's crystal down there, but it's useless. You wouldn't know it to look at it, but the scientists say the structure is all wrong for their needs. Alright Helm, proceed on course to our next waypoint.”

“But Captain, we haven't retrieved 'X-ray 3' yet.” exclaimed the XO “What about them?”

“What about them? We'll pick up the scout on our way back in 6 months.”

“But they only have enough stores and oxy for 30 days, Sir. They'll die!”

“I have no sympathy for pirates, Mister! The Belt is dangerous enough for honest Spacers, without

carrying vipers around with us. You're new here, XO, so I'll overlook your outburst, but never second-guess my orders again. Understood?

“Aye, Sir! My apologies. Ready to leave orbit.”

“Very well. Execute!”

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