Lois McMaster Bujold, "FALLING FREE"

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Chapter 1

The shining rim of the planet Rodeo wheeled dizzily past the observation port of the orbital transfer station. A woman whom Leo Graf recognized as one of his fellow disembarking passengers from the Jump ship stared eagerly out for a few minutes, then turned away, blinking and swallowing, to sit rather abruptly on one of the bright cushioned lounge chairs. Her eyes closed, opened, caught Leo's; she shrugged in embarrassment. Leo smiled sympathetically. Immune himself to the assorted nauseas of space travel, he moved to take her place at the crystal viewport.

Scanty cloud cover swirled in the thin atmosphere far below, barely veiling what seemed excessive quantities of red desert sand. Rodeo was a marginal world, home only to GalacTech mining and drilling operations and their support facilities. But what was he doing here? Leo wondered anew. Underground operations were hardly his field of expertise.

The planet slid from view with the rotation of the station. Leo moved to another port for a view back toward the hub of the station's wheel, noting the stress points and wondering when they'd last been x-rayed for secretly propagating flaws. Centrifugal g-forces here at the rim where this passenger lounge was situated seemed to be running at about half Earth-standard, a little light perhaps. Deliberately stress-reduced, trouble anticipated in the structure? But he was here for training, they'd said at GalacTech headquarters on Earth, to teach quality control procedures in free fall welding and construction. To whom? Why here, at the end of nowhere? "The Cay Project" was a singularly uninformative title for his assignment.

"Leo Graf?"

Leo turned. "Yes?"

The speaker was tall and dark-haired, perhaps thirty, perhaps forty. He wore conservative-fashionable civilian clothes, but a quiet lapel pin marked him as a company man. Best sedentary executive type, Leo decided. The hand he held out for Leo to shake was evenly tanned but soft. "I'm Bruce Van Atta."

Leo's thick hand was pale but flecked with brown spots. Crowding forty, sandy and square, Leo wore comfortable red company coveralls by long habit, partly to blend with the workers he supervised, mostly that he need never waste time and thought deciding what to put on in the morning. "Graf", read the label printed over his left breast pocket, eliminating all mystery.

"Welcome to Rodeo, the armpit of the universe," grinned Van Atta.

"Thank you," Leo smiled back automatically. "I'm head of the Cay Project now; I'll be your boss," Van Atta amplified. "I requested you personally, y'know. You're going to help me get this division moving at last, jack it up and light a fire under it. You're like me, I know, got no patience with deadheads. It was a hell of a job to have dumped on me, trying to make this division profitable—but if I succeed, I'll be the Golden Boy."

"Requested me?" Cheering, to think that his reputation preceded him, but why couldn't one ever be requested by somebody at a garden spot? Ah, well. . . . "They told me at HQ that I was being sent out here to give an expanded version of my short course in non-destructive testing."

"Is that all they told you?" Van Atta asked in astonishment. At Leo's affirmative shrug, he threw back his head and laughed. "Security, I suppose," Van Atta went on when he'd stopped chuckling. "Are you in for a surprise. Well, well. I won't spoil it." Van Atta's sly grin was as irritating as a familiar poke in the ribs.

Too familiar—oh, hell, Leo thought, this guy knows me from somewhere. And he thinks I know him. . . . Leo's polite smile became fixed in mild panic. He had met thousands of GalacTech personnel in his eighteen-year career. Perhaps Van Atta would say something soon to narrow the possibilities.

"My instructions listed a Dr. Cay as titular head of the Cay Project," Leo probed. "Will I be meeting him?"

"Old data," said Van Atta. "Dr. Cay died last year—several years past the date he should have been forcibly retired, in my opinion, but he was a vice-president and major stockholder and thoroughly entrenched—but that's blood over the damned dam, eh? I replaced him." Van Atta shook his head. "But I can't wait to see the look on your face when you see—come along. I have a private shuttle waiting."

They had the six-man personnel shuttle to themselves, but for the pilot. The passenger seat molded itself to Leo's body during the brief periods of acceleration. Quite brief periods; clearly they were not braking for planetary re-entry. Rodeo turned beneath them, falling farther away.

"Where are we going?" Leo asked Van Atta, seated beside him.

"Ah," said Van Atta. "See that speck about thirty degrees above the horizon? Watch it. It's home base for the Cay Project."

The speck grew rapidly into a far-flung chaotic structure, all angles and projections, with confetti-colored lights spangling its sharp shadows. Leo's practiced eye picked out the clues to its function, the tanks, the ports, the greenhouse filters winking in the sunlight, the size of the solar panels versus the estimated volume of the structure.

"An orbital habitat?"

"You got it," said Van Atta.

"It's huge."

"Indeed. How many personnel would you guess it could handle?"

"Oh—fifteen hundred."

Van Atta's eyebrows rose, in slight disappointment, perhaps, at not being able to offer a correction. "Almost exactly. Four hundred-ninety-four rotating GalacTech personnel and a thousand permanent inhabitants."

Leo's lips echoed the word, permanent. . . "Speaking of rotation—how are you handling null-gee de-conditioning in your people? I don't—" his eyes inventoried the enormous structure, "I don't even see an exercise wheel. No spinning gym?"

"There's a null-gee gym. The rotating personnel get a month downside after every three-month shift."

"Expensive."

"But we put the Habitat up there for less than a quarter of the cost of the same volume of living quarters in one-gee spinners."

"But surely you'll lose what you've saved in construction costs over time in personnel transportation and medical expenses," argued Leo. "The extra shuttle trips, the long leaves—every retiree who breaks an arm or a leg until the day he dies will be suing GalacTech for the cost of it plus mental anguish, whether he had significant bone demineralization or not."

"We've solved that problem too," said Van Atta. "Whether the solution is cost-effective—well, that's what you and I are here to try and prove."

The shuttle sidled delicately into alignment with a hatch on the side of the Habitat and seated itself with a reassuringly authoritative click. The pilot shut down his systems and unbuckled himself to float past Leo and Van Atta and check the hatch seals. "Ready for disembarking, Mr. Van Atta."

"Thank you, Grant."

Leo released his seat restraints, and stretched and relaxed in the pleasureable familiarity of weightlessness. Not for him the unfortunate nauseas of null-gee that sapped the efficiency of so many employees. Leo's body was ordinary enough, downside; here, where control and practice and wit counted more than strength, he was at last an athlete. Smiling a little to himself, he followed Van Atta from handgrip to hand-grip and through the shuttle hatch.

A pink-faced tech manned a control panel just inside the shuttle hatch corridor. He wore a red T-shirt with the GalacTech logo over his left breast. Tight blond curls cut close to his head reminded Leo of a lamb's pelt; perhaps it was an effect of his obvious youth.

"Hello there, Tony," Van Atta greeted him with cheerful familiarity.

"Good afternoon, Mr. Van Atta," the youth replied deferentially. He smiled at Leo, and cocked his head at Van Atta in a pantomime plea for an introduction. "Is this the new teacher you were telling us about?"

"Indeed he is. Leo Graf, this is Tony—he'll be among your first trainees. He's one of the habitat's permanent residents," Van Atta added with peculiar emphasis. "Tony is a welder and joiner, second grade—working on first, eh, Tony? Shake hands with Mr. Graf."

Van Atta was smirking. Leo had the impression that if he hadn't been in free fall, he would have been bouncing on his heels.

Tony pulled himself obediently over the control panel. He wore red shorts—

Leo blinked, and caught his breath in shock. The boy had no legs. Emerging from his shorts were a second set of arms.

Functional arms, he was even now using his—his lower left hand, Leo supposed he'd have to call it—to anchor himself as he reached out to Leo. His smile was perfectly unselfconscious.

Leo had lost his own hand grip, and had to fumble to retrieve it, and stretch awkwardly to meet the proffered handshake. "How do you do," Leo managed to croak. It was almost impossible not to stare. Leo forced his gaze to focus on the young man's bright blue eyes.

"Hello, sir. I've been looking forward to meeting you." Tony's handshake was shy but sincere, his hand dry and strong.

"Um ..." Leo stumbled, "um, what's your last name, uh, Tony?"

"Oh, Tony's just my nickname, sir. My full designation is TY-776-424-XG."

"I, uh—guess I'll call you Tony, then," Leo murmured, increasingly stunned. Van Atta, most unhelpfully, seemed to be thoroughly enjoying Leo's discomforture.

"Everybody does," said Tony agreeably.

"Fetch Mr. Graf's bag, will you, Tony?" said Van Atta. "Come on, Leo, I'll show you your quarters, and then we can do the grand tour."

Leo followed his floating guide into the indicated cross-corridor, glancing back over his shoulder in renewed amazement as Tony launched himself accurately across the chamber and swung through the shuttle hatch.

"That's," Leo swallowed, "that's the most extraordinary birth defect I've ever seen. Somebody had a stroke of genius, to find him a job in free fall. He'd be a cripple, downside."

"Birth defect." Van Atta's grin had grown twisted. "Yeah, that's one way of describing it. I wish you could have seen the look on your face, when he popped up like that. I congratulate you on your self-control. I about puked when I first saw one, and I was prepared. You get used to the little chimps pretty quick, though."

"There's more than one?"

Van Atta opened and closed his hands in a counting gesture. "An even one-thousand. The first generation of GalacTech's new super-workers. The name of the game, Leo, is bioengineering. And I intend to win."

Tony, with Leo's valise clutched in his lower right hand, swooped between Leo and Van Atta in the cylindrical corridor and braked to a halt in front of them with three deft touches on the passing handgrips.

"Mr. Van Atta, can I introduce Mr. Graf to somebody on the way to Visitor's Wing? It won't be much out of the way—Hydroponics."

Van Atta's lips pursed, then arranged themselves in a kindly smile. "Why not? Hydroponics is on the itinerary for this afternoon anyway."

"Thank you, sir," cried Tony, and darted off with enthusiasm to open the air safety seal before them at the end of the corridor, and linger to close it again behind them on the other side.

Leo fastened his attention on his surroundings, as a less-rude alternative to surreptitiously studying the boy. The Habitat was indeed inexpensively constructed, mostly pre-fab units variously combined. Not the most aesthetically elegant design—a certain higgledy-piggledy randomness indicated an organic growth pattern since the Habitat's inception, units stuck on here and there to accommodate new needs. But its very dullness incorporated safety advantages Leo approved, the interchangeability of airseal systems for example.

They passed dormitory wings, food preparation and dining areas, a workshop for small repairs—Leo paused to gaze down its length, and had to hurry to catch up with his guide. Unlike most free-fall living spaces Leo had worked in, there was no effort here to maintain an arbitrary up-and-down to ease the visual psychology of the inhabitants. Most chambers were cylindrical in design, with work spaces and storage efficiently packing the walls and the center left free of obstruction for the passage of—well, one could hardly call them pedestrians.

En route they passed a couple of dozen of the—the four-handed people, the new model workers, Tony's folk, whatever they were called—did they have an official designation, Leo wondered? He stared covertly, breaking off his gaze whenever one looked back, which was often; they stared openly at him, and whispered among themselves.

He could see why Van Atta dubbed them chimps. They were thin-hipped, lacking the powerful gluteal locomotor muscles of people with legs. The lower set of arms tended to be more muscular than the uppers in both males and females, power-grippers, and thus appeared falsely short by comparison to the uppers; bow-legged, if he squinted them to a blur.

They were dressed mostly in the sort of comfortable, practical T-shirt and shorts that Tony wore, evidently color-coded, for Leo passed a cluster of them all in yellow hovering intently around a normal human in GalacTech coveralls who had a pump unit half-apart, lecturing on its function and repair. Leo thought of a flock of canaries, of flying squirrels, of monkeys, of spiders, of swift bright lizards of the sort that run straight up walls.

They made him want to scream, almost to weep; and yet it wasn't the arms, or the quick, too-many hands. He had almost reached Hydroponics before he was able to analyze his intense unease. It was their faces that bothered him so, Leo realized. They were the faces of children. . . .

A door marked "Hydroponics D" slid aside to reveal an antechamber and a large airy end chamber extending some fifteen meters beyond. Filtered windows on the sun side, and an array of mirrors on the dark side, filled the volume with brilliant light, softened by green plants that grew from a carefully-arranged set of grow tubes. The air was pungent with chemicals and vegetation.

A pair of the four-armed young women, both in blue, were at work in the antechamber. A plexiplastic grow tube three meters long was braced in place, and they floated along its length carefully transplanting tiny seedlings from a germination box into a spiral series of holes along the tube, one plant per hole, fixing them in place with flexible sealant around each tender stalk. The roots would grow inward, becoming a tangled mat to absorb the nutritive hydroponic mist pumped through the tube, and the leaves and stems would bush out in the sunlight and eventually bear whatever fruit was their genetic destiny. In this place, probably apples with antlers, thought Leo in mild hysteria, or potatoes with eyes that really winked at you.

The dark-haired girl paused to adjust a bundle under her arm. . . . Leo's mind ground to a complete halt. The bundle was a baby.

A live baby—of course it was alive, what did he expect? Leo gibbered inwardly. It peered around its—mother's?—torso to glower suspiciously at Leo-the-stranger, and tightened its four-handed clutch on home base, taking a squishy defensive grip on one of the girl's breasts as if in fear of competition. "Ackle," it remarked aggressively.

"Ow!" The dark-haired girl laughed, and spared a lower hand to pry the little fat fingers loose without missing a beat of her upper hands parting sealant in place around a stem. She finished with a quick squirt of fixative from a tube floating conveniently beside her, just out of the infant's reach.

The girl was slim, and elvish, and wonderfully weird to Leo's unaccustomed eyes. Her short, fine hair clung close to her head, framing her face, shaped to a point at the nape of her neck. It was so thick it reminded Leo of cat fur: one might stroke it, and be soothed.

The other girl was blonde, and babyless. She looked up first, and smiled. "Company, Claire." The dark-haired girl's face lit with pleasure. Leo flushed in the heat of it. "Tony!" she cried happily, and Leo realized he had merely received an accidental dose, as it were, of that beam of delight, as it swept over him to its true target.

The baby released three hands and waved them urgently. "Ah, ah!" The girl turned in air to face the visitors. "Ah, ah, ah!" the baby repeated.

"Oh, all right," she laughed. "You want to fly to Daddy, hm?" She unhooked a short tether from a sort of soft harness on the baby's torso to a belt around her own waist, and held the infant out. "Fly to Daddy, Andy? Fly to Daddy?"

The baby indicated enthusiasm for the proposal by waving all four hands vigorously about and squealing eagerly. She launched him toward Tony with considerably more velocity than Leo would have dared to impart. Tony, grinning cheerfully, caught him—handily, Leo thought in blitzed inanity.

"Fly to Mommy?" Tony inquired in turn. "Ah, ah," the baby agreed, and Tony hung him in air, gently pulling his arms out—like straightening out a starfish, Leo thought—and imparting a spin rolled him through the air for all the world like a wheel. The baby pulled his hands in, clenching his face in sympathetic effort, and spun faster, and gurgled with laughter at the success of his effort. Conservation of angular momentum, thought Leo. Naturally . . .

Claire tossed the infant back one more time to his father—mind-boggling, to think of that blond boy as a father of anything—and followed herself to brake to a halt hand-to-hand against Tony, who proffered an automatic helping grasp for that purpose. That they continued to hold hands was clearly more than a courteous anchoring.

"Claire, this is Mr. Graf," Tony did not so much introduce as display him, like a prize. "He's going to be my advanced welding techniques teacher. Mr. Graf, this is Claire, and this is our son Andy." Andy had clambered headward on his father, and was wrapping one hand in Tony's blond hair and another around one ear, blinking owlishly at Leo. Tony gently rescued the ear and re-directed the clutch to the fabric of his red T-shirt. "Claire was picked to be the very first natural mother of us," Tony went on proudly. "Me and four other girls," Claire corrected modestly.

"Claire used to be in Welding and Joining too, but she can't do Outside work any more," Tony explained. "She's been in Housekeeping, Nutrition Technology, and Hydroponics since Andy was born."

"Dr. Yei said I was a very important experiment, to see which sorts of productivity were least compromised by my taking care of Andy at the same time," explained Claire. "I sort of miss going Outside—it was exciting—but I like this, too. More variety."

GalacTech re-invents Women's Work? thought Leo bemusedly. Are we about to put an R&D group to work on the applications of fire, too? But oh, you are certainly an experiment. . . . His thought was unreflected in his bland, closed face. "Happy to meet you, Claire," he said gravely.

Claire nudged Tony, and nodded toward her blonde co-worker, who had drifted over to join the group.

"Oh—and this is Silver," Tony went on obediently. "She works in Hydroponics most of the time." Silver nodded. Her medium-short hair drifted in soft platinum waves, and Leo wondered if it was the source of her nickname. She had the sort of strong facial bones that are sharp and unhappily awkward at thirteen, arrestingly elegant at thirty-five, now not quite halfway through their transition. Her blue gaze was cooler and less shy than the busy Claire's, who was already distracted by some new demand from Andy. Claire retrieved the baby and re-attached his safety line.

"Good afternoon, Mr. Van Atta," Silver added particularly. She pirouetted in air, with eyes that cried silently, Notice me! Leo noticed that all twenty of her manicured fingernails were lacquered pink.

Van Atta's answering smile was secretive and smug. "Afternoon, Silver. How's it going?"

"We have one more tube to plant after this one. We'll be finished ahead of shift change," Silver offered.

"Fine, fine," said Van Atta jovially. "Ah—do try to remember to arrange yourself right-side up when you're talking to a downsider, Sugarplum."

Silver inverted herself hastily to match Van Atta's orientation. Since the room was radially arranged, right-side-up was a purely Van Atta-centric direction, Leo noted dryly. Where had he met the man before?

"Well, carry on, girls." Van Atta led out, Leo following, Tony bringing up the rear regretfully, looking back over his shoulder.

Andy had returned his attention to his mother, his determined little hands foraging up her shirt, on which dark stains were spreading in autonomic response. Apparently that was one bit of ancient biology the company had not altered. The milk dispensers were certainly ideally pre-adapted to life in free fall, after all. And even diapers had a heroic history in the dawn of space travel, Leo had heard.

His brief amusement drained away, and he pushed off after Van Atta, silent and reflective. He held his judgment suspended, he reassured himself, not paralyzed. In the meantime, a closed mouth could not impede the inflow of data.

They paused at Van Atta's Habitat office. Van Atta switched on the lights and air circulation as they entered. From the stale smell Leo guessed the office was not often used; the executive probably spent most of his time more comfortably downside. A large viewport framed a spectacular view of Rodeo.

"I've come up in the world a bit since we last met," said Van Atta, matching his gaze. The upper atmosphere along Rodeo's rim was producing some gorgeous prismatic light effects at this angle of view. "In several senses. I don't mind returning the favor. The man at the top owes it to remember how he got there, I think. Noblesse oblige and all that." The tilt of Van Atta's eyebrow invited Leo to join him in self-congratulatory satisfaction.

Remember. Quite. Leo's blank memory was getting excruciatingly uncomfortable. He smiled and seized the pause while Van Atta activated his desk comconsole to turn away and make a slow, politely-waiting-type orbit of the room, as if idly examining its contents.

A little wall plaque bearing a humorous motto caught his eye. On the sixth day God saw He couldn't do it all, it read, so He created ENGINEERS. Leo snorted, mildly amused.

"I like that too," commented Van Atta, looking up to check the cause of his chuckle. "My ex-wife gave it to me. It was about the only thing the greedy bitch didn't take back when we split."

"Were you an—" Leo began, and swallowed the words, engineer, then? as he finally remembered, and then wondered how he could ever have forgotten. Leo had known Van Atta as an engineering subordinate at that time, though, not as an executive superior. Was this sleek go-getter the same idiot he had kicked impatiently upstairs to Administration just to get him out from underfoot on the Morita Station project—ten, twelve years ago now? Brucie-baby. Oh, yes. Oh, hell . . .

Van Atta's comconsole disgorged a couple of data disks, which he plucked off. "You put me on the fast track. I've always thought it must give you a sense of satisfaction, since you spend so much of your time training, to see one of your old students make good."

Van Atta was no more than five years younger than Leo. Leo suppressed profound irritation—he wasn't this paper-shuffler's ninety-year-old retired Sunday school teacher, damn it. He was a working engineer, hands-on, and not afraid to get them dirty, either. His technical work was as close to perfection as his relentless conscientiousness could push it, his safety record spoke for itself. . . . He let his anger go with a sigh. Wasn't it always so? He'd seen dozens of subordinates forge ahead, often men he'd trained himself. Yeah, and trust Van Atta to make it seem a weakness and not a point of pride.

Van Atta spun the data disks across the room at him. "There's your roster and your syllabus. Come on, and I'll show you some of the equipment you'll be working with. GalacTech's got two projects in the wind they're thinking of finally turning these Cay Project quaddies loose on."

"Quaddies?"

"The official nickname."

"It's not, um . . . pejorative?"

Van Atta stared, then snorted. "No. What you do not call them out loud, however, is 'mutants,' genetic paranoia being what it is after that Nuovo Brasilian military cloning fiasco. This whole project could have been carried out much more conveniently in Earth orbit, but for the assorted legal hysterias about human gene manipulation. Anyway, the projects. One to assemble Jump ships in orbit around Orient IV, and another building a deep space transfer facility at some nexus away the hell-and-gone beyond Tau Ceti called Kline Station—cold work, no habitable planets in the system and its sun is a cinder, but the local space harbors no less than six wormhole exits. Potentially very profitable. Lots of welding under the most difficult free-fall conditions—" Leo's brief angst was swallowed in interest. It had always been the work itself, not the pay and perks, that held him in thrall. Screw executive privilege—didn't it mostly mean being stuck downside? He followed Van Atta out of the office back into the corridor where Tony still waited patiently with his luggage.

"I suppose it was the development of the uterine replicators that made it all possible," Van Atta opined while Leo stowed his gear in his new quarters. More than a mere sleep cubicle, the chamber included private sanitary facilities and a comconsole as well as comfortable-looking sleep restraints—no morning back-ache on this job, Leo thought with minor satisfaction. Headache was another problem.

"I'd heard something about those things," said Leo. "Another invention from Beta Colony, wasn't

it?" Van Atta nodded. The outer worlds are getting

too damn clever these days. Earth's going to lose its edge if it doesn't shape up."

Too true, Leo thought. Yet the history of innovation suggested this was an inevitable pattern. Management who had made huge capital investments in one system were naturally loathe to scrap it, and so the latecomers forged ahead—to the frustration of loyal engineers. . . . "I'd thought the use of uterine replicators was limited to obstetrical emergencies."

"Actually, the only limitation on their use is the feet that they're hideously expensive," said Van Atta. "It's probably only a matter of time before rich women everywhere start ducking their biological duties and cooking up their kids in 'em. But for GalacTech, it meant that human bioengineering experiments could at last be carried out without involving a lot of flaky foster-mothers to carry the implanted embryos. A neat, clean, controlled engineering approach. Better still, these quaddies are total constructs—that is, their genes are taken from so many sources, it's impossible to identify their genetic parents either. Saves quantities of legal grief." "I'll bet," said Leo faintly.

"This whole thing was Dr. Cay's obsession, I gather. I never met him, but he must have been one of those, you know, charismatic types, to push through a project with this enormous lead time before any possible pay-off. The first batch is just turning twenty. The extra arms are the wildest part—"

"I've often wished I had four hands, in free fall," Leo murmured, trying not to sound too dubious out loud.

"—but most of the changes were this bunch of metabolic stuff. They never get motion-sick—something about re-wiring the vestibular system—and their muscles maintain tone with an exercise regimen of barely fifteen minutes a day, max—nothing like the hours you and I would have to put in during a long stint in null-gee. Their bones don't deteriorate at all. They're even more radiation-resistant than us. Bone marrow and gonads can take four and five times the rems we can absorb before GalacTech grounds us—although the medical types are pushing for them to do their reproducing early in life, while all those expensive genes are still pristine. After that, it's all gravy for us; workers who never require downside leave; so healthy they'll go on and on, cutting high-cost turnover; they're even," Van Atta snickered, "self-replicating."

Leo secured the last of his scanty personal possessions. "Where . . . will they go when they, uh, retire?" he asked slowly.

Van Atta shrugged. "I suppose the company will have to work something out, when the time comes. Not my problem, fortunately; I'll be retired before then."

"What happens if they—quit, go elsewhere? Suppose somebody offers them higher pay? GalacTech will be out-of-pocket for all the R&D."

"Ah. I don't think you've quite grasped the beauty of this set-up. They don't quit. They aren't employees. They're capital equipment. They aren't paid in money—though I wish my salary was equal to what GalacTech is spending yearly to maintain 'em. But that will get better as the last replicator cohort gets older and more self-sufficient. They stopped producing new ones about five years ago, see, in anticipation of turning that job over to the quaddies themselves." Van Atta licked his lips and raised his eyebrows, as if in enjoyment of a salacious joke. Leo could not regret missing its point.

Leo turned, curling in air and crossing his arms. "Spacer's Union is going to call it slave labor, you know," he said at last.

"The Union's going to call it worse names than that. Their productivity is going to look sick," growled Van Atta. "Loaded language bullshit. These little chimps have cradle to grave security. GalacTech couldn't be treating them better if they were made of solid platinum. You and I should have so good a deal, Leo."

"Ah," said Leo, and no more.