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This Liaden Universe® story is set in the milieu of December series entry Trader’s Leap. Maine-based writers Sharon Lee and Steve Miller have written dozens of short stories and twenty plus novels, most set in their star-spanning Liaden Universe®. Before settling down to the serene and stable life of a science fiction and fantasy writer, Steve was a traveling poet, rock-band reviewer, reporter, and editor of a string of community newspapers. Sharon, less adventurous, has been an advertising copywriter, copy editor on night-side news at a small city newspaper, reporter, photographer, and book reviewer. Both credit their newspaper experiences with teaching them the finer points of collaboration. Sharon and Steve passionately believe that reading fiction ought to be fun, and that stories are entertainment. They maintain a web presence at

Say what you might about foolish valor—and Can Ith had said his share—the mission had provided an interesting piloting exercise, and fortunate it was that he had been home on leave, if one could conceive of such a thing.

They had made excellent time to this faraway port, three small tradeships, pod-stripped, one of Ixin's, showing the Moon and Rabbit with some reluctance—but what else could they do when Korval's two vessels flaunted the Tree-and-Dragon and never thought to do otherwise?

So, three small ships, as traders went, pelting through space as though pursued, which was only . . . somewhat . . . likely. Port was raised, and permission gained to offload the cargo, which was done, shuttle-load by shuttle-load, none of the captains being quite so gallant as to risk the big ships at dock.

Can Ith had drawn shuttle duty, which would not have been so ill, had he not drawn second seat, and his cousin Sin Jin first. Still, it wasn't as if they needed to speak to one another, and the off-loading went quickly.

It wasn't until the last of the cargo was down and off, that the mission acquired a complication, and red tape tied the shuttles to the dock.

It seemed that there were tests to be administered to the cargo, and those found to fall short were to be returned to the ships. The number of those failing was as of this port-morning had been three, which was not so high a percentage. Still, their contract had been to make delivery here, offloading Safely and fully before turning back to the homeworld.

Safely and fully had its own power, in contracts; and if it had not, even Sin Jin would have been hard-put to justify simply abandoning the culls at the dock.

It was decided in consultation between the captains that the Rabbit's ship was best placed to take up the rejected, as there was another port open to them, which would not necessarily welcome a Dragon. The shuttle Firsts were dispatched as a group to place this plan before the portmaster. Assuming it found favor, Korval's ships would be free to return to the homeworld. In theory. Can Ith's faith in theory was . . . not non-existent, and of no matter in any case. Scout captain he might be, but family, so the saying went, kept its own rank, and Sin Jin was his elder by two Standards, and was further favored by the delm, for the sake of his mother.

The Firsts had been away for some time. Rather longer, Can Ith considered, than they ought to have been, had the portmaster been inclined to the proposal. That was worrying, for personal reasons. Home-leave from the Scouts only seemed to last forever, and he was running close to time. Mission planning had not considered the possibility of a lengthy layover. If the proposal was accepted, and Korval's ships given leave to depart, and they flew home with the same vigor with which they had flown away . . . 

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