“Good,” Amanpreet said. “By the way, are they voting on the biosphere restoration plan soon?”
“For Talis you mean?” Oni asked. “They already did a few days ago. It was approved unanimously. The scientists have already moved the eggs into a large habitation dome and the Talis computer has released a few bio-robots to tend them now they are out of stasis. The linguists are making inroads on their language as well, thanks to the computer learning to understand you.”
“Yes,” Niobe said. “I imagine that would help.”
“Oh, by the way, are all your colleagues human?” Amanpreet asked. “Because we’re not really set up to handle Mez or Ishtari.”
“Few sticks are multiple environment,” Oni said. “So we’re asking your friend, Promise, if it minds helping out as well, now its kind have been recognised by the council. I think it may have been reading your files in transit because it asked if it would need insurance to carry passengers.”
“Er… no,” Niobe said. “That was my fault. I mentioned Liability Insurance during one of our conversations on route here and it was curious.”
“It probably would need insurance to carry people officially,” Amanpreet said thoughtfully. “And I doubt the Fish have currency.” She tilted her head as she considered the problem. “I’m sure someth–” She broke off as the communicator chimed again. “We’re popular today.” She opened the line to find one of the many Mez from Promise on the other end. “Niobe, can you take this please?”
“Of course.” Niobe came over and spoke to the Mez and then to Promise. After a moment she looked around. “Promise wants to know if you can hire it so your insurance will cover it. It’s opening an account with a Terran bank for its pay on another line as we speak.”
“Not just a class four intelligence,” Oni said. “But a clever one. I think I like your friend.”
“Hmm…” Amanpreet pursed her lip consideringly. “I’m willing and I have the credits thanks to this job but I’m not sure how much to pay it. Would the best rate be the same as I’m paying Kayla? As if I was hiring both ship and captain? I’ve never employed a sophont ship before.”
Niobe chuckled. “Who has?” She translated what Amanpreet had said then listened to the reply.
“Promise says it has never been hired before so you’re even there, and it will accept whatever you are paying Kayla until it learns more about how this works and then you can renegotiate.”
“That seems fair,” Amanpreet said. “We have a deal.” She grinned suddenly. â€œI always wanted a fleet of ships but I never expected it to come from my habit of taking in waifs and strays.â€
â€œSo you have three ships at your disposal now?â€ Oni said. â€œYour own Stick, a small scout Stick, and Promise. Hmm… we’ll have to up your fee to cover that. We’ve only paid for one but we can certainly make use of the scout’s equipment. It’ll save us hauling around so much of our own.â€ He turned to Kayla. â€œWhat’s your ship’s name, Miss?â€
â€œThe Dreamsong.â€ Kayla grinned. â€œYou’ll want me to run detailed scans and atmosphere tests?â€
â€œThat’s right,â€ he said and Kayla grinned again.
â€œWell, it’s getting interesting, now. We’ll be looking for signs of industrial pollution and similar sophont caused environmental issues?â€ When he nodded again she looked thoughtful. â€œI’d better do some studying on route so I know what I’m looking for. Most planets a scout looks at are uninhabited so we don’t see industry much.â€
â€œHave you ever discovered a planet with a fully sophont species?â€ he asked.
â€œUh… maybe?â€ Kayla looked uncertain. â€œI don’t know if they eventually classed the two tool making species on Antigone as high Class Three or low Class Four. They were kind of borderline.â€
â€œOh! You’re the one who discovered Antigone?â€ Oni exclaimed. â€œThat’s a fascinating world. One of those is definitely sophont â€“ they have controlled use of fire. The other is close enough that we’ve classified it as Class Four out of caution. The fact the planet’s classification has been raised from highly restricted to prohibited should be announced in the next week or so.â€ He turned back to Amanpreet. â€œBut we should discuss this mission. If you’ve never been on a sanctioned mission to a prohibited system before you need to know what to expect.
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