AFTER THE BATTLE. Lieutenant Clersek had evaded the Kkrth, for at least a little while. He dared not let the Master Terminal fall into their hands. If he could really lose them and then return later ... It was worth the try. He landed on a small asteroid and found a little crevice, in the surface of the asteroid. There were loose rocks nearby, probably a result of the battle that had just ended. Clersek maneuvered a large rock to cover the Master Terminal. He then layered more loose rocks over the cover rock. Having done what he had to, Clersek returned to the small ship’s boat that was all that was operationally left of the Emperor of Trenth.
As he left the cluster of asteroids, Clersek encountered the one remaining Kkrth boat. Clersek fought a brave, but futile, battle. At the end of the battle, both boats detonated and then there was peace. The peace was to last for several million years.
Much later, Jeron arrives at the little asteroid that he has selected for his initial try as a rock jack. He moors the little space scooter very carefully. The space scooter is his only way back to the ship. Jeron quickly scans the nearby surface. It’s strange, but there appears to be some loose rock. The book says, “If it looks strange, find out why. The life you save may well be your own.” The book was written by those who survived.
Jeron hand jets over to the surface of the asteroid and secures a personal lifeline. He uses the mining scanner on the surface and finds little joy. He very carefully moves over to the loose rock and scans the edge rocks. They’re ore bearing! Not jackpot, but maybe worth the trip.
Jeron carefully reels in his space scooter, using the lifeline, and then begins to load the loose rocks into the rack under the scooter. He moves, as he has been taught, slowly and carefully. The work seems easy, but the book warns about overworking oneself in a zero gee gravitational field. Jeron finishes the pile of loose rocks with about 45 minutes left in his air tank. With the surface rock cleared, it appears that there’s a little crevice that runs under a large rock. At the back of the crevice is something that shows a dull mottled sort of reflection in his work light. He manages to extract the item. It’s a small machine of some sort, with an attached antenna. Jeron carries his latest find back to the space scooter.
Arriving at the scooter, Jeron finds that he’s almost a minute past his scheduled departure time. He throws the newly found machine into the scooter and hooks himself to the scooter mooring cable. He releases his own lifeline and pulls himself back into the scooter. He then releases the scooter mooring cable that holds the scooter to the asteroid.
Without wasting any time, Jeron heads back to the mining ship. He arrives a few seconds late, but the dispatcher fudges the time a bit and Jeron rushes through the check in. In the hustle and bustle, the newly found machine is overlooked by the scooter pool guy.
Jeron’s first load of ore pays for his first trip, with 6/10ths Credit profit, left over!
Later, Jeron addresses a table of his comrades. “I rented a space scooter. I took it out, by the book. I found a little ore, also by the book. And then, I got it back, also by the book. Despite what everybody says, if you just follow the book, it works!”
There are the usual questions following a first trip, by a newbie, but it goes fairly well. The rock jacks have a few sarcastic comments, but Mickey, the supervisor, shuts that down quickly.
Mickey does say, “So, Jeron, you’re a real rock jack now?”
Jeron laughs and says, “I made it out and back in, by the book. I may not be too smart, but I can read. Right now, I’m drinking up the entire big profits of my first trip.” Jeron holds up the half credit bottle of lemon squash.
The rock jacks accept the self-deprecation and the bar talk quickly returns to other things.