system. I expect they feel cheated when they compare themselves with us. And some of them translate that feeling into trying to get extra goodies for themselves."

    Nancia had to agree that what Simeon said made a lot of sense. She tried to emulate his attitude of lofty detachment while she went about the business of landing her passengers at their assigned stations in the Nyota ya Jaha system. Since four of them still thought her a droneship and the fifth knew she wasn't speaking to him, it was easy enough to remain aloof.

    Nancia made each planetary landfall an exercise in split-second timing and perfect orbit-matching. It was good practice, it kept her concentrating on her own business and not on that of her passengers, and if the 78

    Anne McCaffrey & Margaret Baft

    rapid maneuvers involved gave them a bumpy ride —
    well, so much the worse. She took pride in making the actual moments of touchdown as gentle as the landing of a feather. At least, Bahati and Shemali went that way.
    When she reached Angalia, she couldn't quite restrain her impulse to give filaize a good shaking on the way down. He was pale and sweating by the time they came to a bumpy halt on the mesa that served as Angalia's spacefield.

    "That," he said as he collected his baggage, "was not necessary."

    Nancia preserved an icy silence — literally. Each moment that Blaize delayed, she lowered her internal temperature by several degrees.

    "You could at least send a housekeeping probe to help me with all this stuff," he complained, gripping a box of novelhedra with fingers that were rapidly turning blue with cold.

    "^fou're not my mother, you know," he said while lean-ing on the button to the lift. "Nobody asked you to pass judgment on my moral standards. Just like nobody asked me if I wanted to come out to this godforsaken place."

    "I guess it would be too much to expect anybody to have a little sympathy," he said as the lift sped downward.

    Nancia tilted the hatchway floor so that Blaize's carefully stacked boxes of supplies tumbled out as soon as he stepped onto the surface of Angalia.

    "I know what you're thinking," he shouted from the red dust of the mesa top, "but you're wrong about me!
    You're all wrong! I'll show you!"

    Nancia was pleased that her assignment made no mention of collecting the previous PTA administrator, the one whom Blaize had been sent to relieve. Apparently, not being a member of the High Families, he was expected to wait for the regularly scheduled PTA transport rather than taking advantage of a brainship for the Courier Service. Hard on him, Nancia PARTNERSHIP


    thought, but quite appropriate. She would proceed directly to Vega 3.3, collect this stranded brawn, and return to Central for a real assignment—with a brawn of her own choosing. Thank goodness she was through being used as a substitute droneship for the convenience of the rich and powerful!

    She discovered her error when she was halfway from Nyota ya Jaha to Vega 3.

    "What do you mean, another little errand?" she blasted poor Simeon.

    "Turn it down," came Simeon's low-intensity reminder. "It wasn't my idea and you don't have to shout like that Anyway, what difference does it make?
    you were going to Vega 3 anyway."

    "I was going to 3.3, not 4.2," Nancia pointed out, and this reminded her of another grievance. "Why can't these people give their suns and planets real names, anyway? This Vega numbering system makes me feel like a machine."

    "They're great believers in efficiency," Simeon said.
    "And logic. You'll see what I mean when you pair up with Caleb."

    "Hmph. You mean, when I transport the man—for that's all I've agreed to. Efficiency!" Nancia grumbled.
    "That's a new word for misuse of the Courier Service.
    Why, it's a whole different solar system and an extra stop to pick up this governor Thrixtopple and his family, not to mention having to feed them all the way back to Central. Time and fuel and ship's stores wasted. My fuel belongs to the

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