Like all the ships Loki flew. Erasmus Chang's scout Praise of Folly was too old. The computer was old, too. In a way, that was an advantage: the navigation data programmed in were Terran Confederacy, the most far-reaching set even if it was six hundred years out of date.
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Like all the ships Loki flew. Erasmus Chang's scout Praise of Folly was too old. The computer was old, too. In a way, that was an advantage: the navigation data programmed in were Terran Confederacy, the most far-reaching set even if it was six hundred years out of date. But after enough time, memory dumps or no. Chang did not trust his machine very far. It was as cynically underhanded as he was. He paced up and down the cabin, a lean, trim man a bit below middle height whose wide, high-cheek-boned face was framed by a thin fringe of black beard.
Pace as he would, though, his eyes kept coming back to the hyperdrive detector. There was little enough else to see; with the drive on, none of the normal-space instruments worked. The four glowing points in the detector display were Zanat warships. One he might have challenged. Taking on four was sure suicide, and he could not afford it. Loki and all the worlds in human space needed to know about the Zanat.
Unfortunately, they would overtake him long before he could deliver the news—long before he gut out of the Orion Nebula, for that matter. He punched for a sandwich, ate it.
When he looked at the FTL display again, the four warships had slid a little closer. As soon as the shavetail lieutenant had stepped into the London Pub. Chang knew his leave was doomed. The youngster was in uniform, which meant he was on duty. Just my luck. The load of books, cassettes, and floppies he'd snaked out of the cathedral on Cienfuegos deserved celebrating, too. Old floppies especially were more precious than gold. Even the Cienfuegans remembered that much; they'd mounted the discs above the altar, by the statues of their gods.
The scout pilot was still fuming when the lieutenant brought him back to Salvage Service Central. B'kila thought it was very funny. The London Pub or Nadia's?
That his habits were known did not surprise him; he would have been surprised had it been otherwise. B'kila looked him over, cocked a critical eyebrow. He had grown the whiskers on Cienfuegos, to make himself less conspicuous there, and was proud of them.
In spite of his name, he had enough caucasoid genes to let him raise a fair crop. B'kila laughed out loud, a bad sign; things that amused her generally meant trouble for other people, She was a plump black woman with straight, graying hair, the head of what was euphemistically known as the Loki Salvage Service.
Loki's few friends called the Service a band of scavengers. Everyone else started with names like pirates, thieves, spies, and went downhill from there. Having wasted enough time on pointless chatter, B'kila waved Clang to a chair by the big holo tank that took up most of one wall.
He sat with the same feeling he had whenever he was in her office—that of being in the center of a spiderweb. Being on the same side helped only a little. Operatives got their chance to roister between missions. She punched a button on her desk. The holo tank sprang to life with a view of that small chunk of the galaxy humans had touched. Stars with planets that were thought from any source, however ancient, to have been settled by men were shown in blue; those about which Loki actually knew something flashed on and off.
Red marked the suns of nonhuman species that used the hyperdrive, yellow those of planetbound races. Most others were omitted; the white points here and there were stars with absolute magnitudes bright enough to make them useful nav checks over many light years.
She moved a veneer, touched another control. One of the winking blue points flared brighter for a moment. A good run. The compliment was another danger signal.
Anything she had to get around to by easy stages was bound to be dicey—not for her of course. For him. His suspicion was confirmed when four brilliant orange points sprang to life beyond the glowing mist of the Orion Nebula, which dimmed to show their location more clearly. She said, "As well as I can judge.
B'kila knew the obvious as well as he. Starships in hyperdrive flew blind, of course; there was always the chance of returning to normal space coincident with solid matter. It was a very long one, though. Aliens might have worked up a trick good enough to snare one ship. That left. This Frost person could have been looking a hundred years into his own future. The galactic map disappeared from the holo tank. A scratchy flat image replaced it: a crowded city scene, with swarms of humans in strange clothes, both civilian and military, milling about at a cautious distance from a starship of a make Chang did not recognize: a pretty crude one, he thought.
Moscow, Shanghai, or twenty others. Seeing that the archaic date meant nothing to Cluing, she added, "45 pre-Confederacy. He whistled. No wonder the video was scratchy—it was over twelve hundred years old. He wondered how many times it had been rerecorded.
In the picture, the ship's ramp was lowering. Naturally, they had gotten no reply. Out came the Roxolani. They moved with the precision of veteran troops, shaking themselves into a skirmish line.
At a shouted command from an officer wearing scarlet ribbons on his arm and fancy plumes, they raised their weapons to their shoulders and fired into the Terrans. Chang heard the ancient screams. Undoubtedly the man holding the video set ducked for his life, for the picture jerked and twisted, but the scout pilot saw the clouds of black-powder smoke float into the sky.
The Terran soldiers around the starship returned fire automatically opening up with small arms, rocket and grenade launchers, and recoilless shells from the armored fighting vehicle that had somehow squeezed into position close by. When the video straightened, the starship was holed and all but two of the aliens down. The survivors gaped at their fallen comrades. Neither had made the slightest move to reload his musket. Reading nonhumans' body language was always tricky, but Chang knew stunned horror when he saw it.
It was a rude shock when they found that a couple of simple experiments could have given them the key to contragrav and the hyperdrive three, four, even five centuries earlier. What's that race that flew bronze ships because they couldn't smelt iron? And every species we know that reached what the old Terrans would have called a seventeenth-century technological level did what was needed—except us. With attention focused on them, too, work on other things, like electricity and atomics, never gets started.
And those have much broader applications—the others are only really good for moving things from here to there in a hurry. With a chuckle. Chang said, "We must have seemed like angry gods when we finally got the hyperdrive and burst off Terra. Radar, radio, computers, fission and fusion—no wonder we spent the next two hundred years conquering.
And unity didn't last forever. None of our neighbors could hurt us, but we did a fine job on ourselves. Someone back then wrote that it was only sporting for humans to fight humans; no one else gave any competition. But those four missing ships frighten me. There's no one out there. As he took her meaning, Chang felt the little hairs at the nape of his neck trying to stand up. She finished low and fierce. And come back. I won't go. I tell you—I'd end up in the scrapper there just as much as you.
Surly was a better word, the scout pilot thought, but held his peace. The takeoff was as smooth as takeoffs under contragrav always were, the shift into hyperdrive as brutal as the others Praise of Folly had been making lately. Chang staggered into the head and threw up. When he came out, he asked plaintively; "Isn't there any way to smooth that out? Loki's own yards turned out decent craft, but some techniques of precision manufacture had yet to be rediscovered.
Chang heard the ancient screams. Undoubtedly the man holding the video set ducked for his life, for the picture jerked and twisted, but the scout pilot saw the clouds of black-powder smoke float into the sky. The Terran soldiers around the starship returned fire automatically opening up with small arms, rocket and grenade launchers, and recoilless shells from the armored fighting vehicle that had somehow squeezed into position close by. When the video straightened, the starship was holed and all but two of the aliens down. The survivors gaped at their fallen comrades.
Carr, Baen , While set in the same universe as " The Road Not Taken ", it has not been collected. After the failed Roxolan invasion, Earth gained knowledge of hyperdrive and contragrav. With other technology far in advance of other species, humanity quickly expanded to other stars conquering the native populations and forming an empire called the Terran Confederacy. However, this expansion was too quick and too extensive. It became impossible to administer and so collapsed.
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Herbig—Haro objects HH are small patches of nebulosity associated with newly born stars, and are formed when gas ejected by young stars collides with clouds of gas and dust nearby at speeds of several hundred km per second. Herbig—Haro objects are ubiquitous in star-forming regions, and several are often seen around a single star, aligned along its rotational axis. HH objects are transient phenomena, lasting not more than a few thousand years. The objects were first observed in the late 19th century by Sherburne Wesley Burnham, but were not recognised as being a distinct type of emission nebula until the s. The first astronomers to study them in detail were George Herbig and Guillermo Haro, after whom they have been named. Herbig and Haro were working independently on studies of star formation when they first analysed Herbig—Haro objects, and recognized they were a by-product of the star formation process.