Roughly six weeks after she had joined the crew of the Condor, flagship of Becker Interplanetary Recycling and Salvage Enterprises, Ltd., Acorna sat on "salvage watch" at the helm of the ship, surrounded by the softly glowing console lights in the cockpit and the billions of stars beyond. She felt contented, almost as if she were once more home back in the first home she could really remember, the mining ship she had shared with her adopted uncles. Behind her for the moment were the intricacies of Linyaari society and culture. Before her instead were the intricacies of the universe as recorded in the notes, tapes, and files of Captain Jonas Becker and his illustrious parent, astrophysicist and salvage magnate Theophilus Becker.
To give herself something to do during the long watch, she was charting those notations methodically so that the planets, moons, wormholes, black holes, "pleated" space, "black water" space, and other locations visited by the Beckers could be easily relocated, and the sites where they had once been could be revisited if the need arose.
Becker had grumbled at first when she started this chore. Since the death of his adoptive father, Theophilus Becker, from whom he had inherited both the Condor and the salvage business, Jonas Becker had been lord and master of the Condor, with only Roadkill or RK for short the huge Makahomian Temple Cat he had rescued from a wreck, for company. Becker didn't like his belongings tampered with or moved. But Acorna had found plenty of evidence that RK periodically made nests out of the hard copies of the notes, often shredded them when hefelt the urge, and, in a few sorry instances, had added his own personal and remarkably pungent contributions to them when he was displeased with the state of his shipboard toilet. Though she could easily eradicate the odor and the stains, nothing could make the shredded notes legible again. It was high time someone charted the notes before RK had his way with the lot of them. After a few "reasonable discussions," Jonas had stopped grumbling and let Acorna get on with her task.
At first RK had stayed at the helm to assist Acorna with her job, but later had wandered off in search of food or a sleeping companion, probably Aari, the only crew member other than Becker currently aboard.
Like Acorna, Aari was Linyaari, a race of humanoid people with equine and alicorn characteristics -including a flowing, curly mane and feathery hair from ankle to knee, feet with two hard toes each, and three-fingered hands with one knuckle on each digit instead of two. The most striking characteristic of the Linyaari, to humans anyway, was the shining spiral horn located in the center of their foreheads. But in Aari's case, the horn had been forcibly removed during tortures he'd suffered while he was a prisoner of voracious bug-like aliens-the Khleevi. While Aari's other wounds had been healed on narhiiVh1liinyar, the world to which the Linyaari had fled when the Khleevi had invaded their original homeworld Vhiliinyar, Aari's horn had not regenerated.
This was an appalling wound for a Linyaari. A Linyaari's horn had amazing almost magical, even properties. The horns had the ability to purify anything including air and water and food, to heal the sick, and also acted to some extent as an antenna for psychic communications among the Linyaari.
Acorna had learned a great deal more about the powers of her horn and about her people when she had returned with a Linyaari delegation to narhii-Vhiliinyar. Unfortunately, once she had arrived, her aunt and two other shipmates had been dispatched into space again to deal with an emergency, and Acorna had been left among strangers to try to adjust to her native culture, a culture she'd left behind while she was still a baby.
Her only two real friends on narhii-Vhiliinyar had been the eldest elder of the Linyaari people, Grandam Naadiina, and Maati, a little girl who was the VÃ¼zaar's messenger and the orphaned younger sister of Aari.
When Becker had made his unauthorized landing on narhii-Vhiliinyar to return Aari and all the bones from the Linyaari graveyard to the new Linyaari home planet, Acorna, Grandam, and Maati had been in the greeting committee. Aari at that time had still been terribly deformed from his ordeal with the Khleevi, and the vÃ¼zaar Liriili and some of the less sensitive and compassionate Linyaari had not made his return easy.
Acorna, perhaps because her own loneliness had helped her identify with his, had been drawn to Aari. When an emergency signal had called Becker away from narhii-Vhiliinyar, Acorna and Aari had shipped out with him. They had been able to help in a crisis that had threatened some of Acorna's human friends as well as the Linyaari. As a result of their intervention, a branch of a Federation-wide criminal organization had been destroyed and many off-planet Linyaari, including Acorna's beloved aunt, had been rescued, along with all the other captives of the criminals. Acorna, Becker, Aari, and Acorna's Uncle Hafiz, who had also been on hand for the rescue, were now in great favor among her people.
Acorna could have stayed comfortably on narhii-Vhiliinyar once her aunt and the other ship-bred and ship-chosen Linyaari returned to the planet. But she had decided instead to leave with Becker and Aari.
She wasn't sorry. She might have been born on a peaceful planet populated by beings who had the ability to understand one another telepathically, but her upbringing had made her different, and that was sometimes a problem both for her and for her people. Space was familiar to her, and its diversity of races, species, and personalities stimulated her. Of course, right now, just being here, quietly charting coordinates, resting her eyes by watching the stars, wasn't very stimulating, but...Acorna's World
. Copyright © by Anne McCaffrey. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.