SLOW TRAIN TO ARCTURUS – snippet 21:
The Great Leader's grasp of science is not good. The laser sequence has been analyzed and decoded. We've started a retransmission of the signals from Oort 1 until the entire stockpile has been dismantled. We've got the scientists and commissars that remained behind pouring out of rat-holes and eager to show us where the nukes are hidden, ever since they were sure that he was on the Slowtrain.
SysGov Internal security report, declassified 3/12/2300
Abret watched as the aliens piled things in front of them. And then Derfel slipped back his helmet hood. Abret knew that Miran could breathe this air. Knew he'd have to, furthermore, if this went on much longer, or he would never have enough air to get back to the lander.
The thought still filled him with dread. He was already close enough to change-over to start having longing thoughts of the nesting territory he was from. The idea of alien air was terrifying. He did not want to breathe it. And then he saw something even more horrifying. Derfel was picking up some of the alien stuff up and putting it into his mouth.
"You'll die!" he said, horrified.
"We'll die if we don't eat," said Derfel. "Get used to it, Abret. We've had no more calls from the spacecraft. Something has gone wrong. And the two of us can't fly the spacecraft. You can do the navigation, yes. But I can't do the engineering. At least we are trapped in an environment where we can breathe the air, and hopefully eat the food, and where the natives are friendly."
Derfel was in one of his more rational periods. He'd been quite right: leaving immediately when they got the call had been impossible. Having Abret admit he' been right did seem to soothe him.
"Well, yes. But are they going to stay friendly, Derfel? I mean, Zawn believed that the other ones were friendly, and they were attacked. We'd better get back to the spacecraft. We're closing on Miran. Maybe we can get instructions by laser-transmission."
"They'll worship us forever," said Derfel confidently. "While you've been moping, I've had Transcomp working on the language. They believe that we are the saviors from the West, finally come to free them from the oppressor. If we have a problem, it will be explaining what took us so long to get here, not when we're going to leave. They pray that we will stay forever. This will be home, I'm afraid. They will treat us well, at least."
Abret knew that, by using the hormone supplements on the lander he could put off changing sex for another few years. There was also some food from the synthesizers and protein vats on the spacecraft. But then… well, no place would be like home, except some place that had a lot of the scents of home. As a female one's sense of smell became very keen. "We can't…"
"We can," said Derfel, crossly.
Then his radio came to life. "Is anyone receiving me?"
It was a Miran voice. Abret would have thought any voice but Derfel’s would be welcome. However…
The pitch of the voice was that of a Miran in hormonal shift, and well on the way to becoming female. The hormonal shifts caused extreme irritability and some degree of irrational behavior. That was the reason Miran tended to leave those in changeover to themselves. They were dangerous—and very territorial.
“Who do think it is, you idiot?”