As the twin suns set, Murook wrapped his head with sandcloth and inspected his sand sailer. The other evening-watch sand sailors would be joining him this evening, along with several of the more physically able guardians. The patrol would take longer with the extra passenger weight; but the wind was beginning to show its strength, forming little tornados around the dunes near the edge of the tribe`s camp.
“Yo! Yoho! Yukka yukka yoho!” Murook shouted.
“Yo! Yohoho! Yukka yukka yo! Yukka yukka yo!” replied the other sand sailors as they mounted their crafts and positioned their expansive sails into the wind that would tug them over and through the dunes on the hours-long journey to Murook’s unknown siting. The oppressive heat had broken, although the wind was still very warm; and Murook sat guiding the craft and contemplating the comments of the Council of Guardians. Most of them had scoffed at him, but he would see them proved wrong. Nevon was the worst. He hated Murook for some reason that was beyond his comprehension.
The stars were now visible in the literally moonless sky (the planet had no companion satellites) and Murook found the constellation that pointed the way and adjusted his direction slightly. It would take nearly three quarter-nights to get there.
Why had Samasham snubbed him after the Council meeting? It was important that he maintain the blessing of the keeper of the mushrooms. Many thoughts entered Murook’s head as he, the sand sailors, and their passengers penetrated the deepening night.
“My sensors detect movement in sector R17. I have an 80% probability match. The objects resemble the single air-powered craft we encountered last evening,” spoke the automaton.
“Good, Robotto,” replied Bill Torque, swiveling in his pilot’s chair and moving from the bridge of the starship into the padded corridor and down the ladder leading to the galley.
Mio Cabana met him with two frozen packages, “Here, Senor Torque, it’s your turn to cook.”
Bill poked two photon cooking probes into the packages, pressed a button on each probe, and removed them from the fully cooked meals. “Mr. Robotto says we have company coming.”
“Oye! We can’t hide the ship. The FTL drive is damaged and we haven’t generated enough liquid fuel to move. What do we do?”
“Look, we’re going to need help making repairs. The only way to deal with this situation is to face it head on.”
“But, can we deal with their technology shock?” Mio queried as they were joined by their robot companion. “Run a projection, Senor Robotto.”
“Running…”, replied Mr. Robotto as a clasp in his metallic chest unlatched and a keyboard unfolded in front of a terminal screen in his stomach. On the screen were displayed twelve windowed scenarios dealing with technology shock and appropriate responses. “These are the only scenarios within the range of probability. If you wish I will calculate those which lie in the range of possibility.”
“No, thank you, Senor Robotto. The probable ones will do. I guess it doesn’t look that bad when you can see your problems displayed before you as a four-dimensional pie chart.”
“Yes, that really does help,” added Bill.
Samasham was Guardian of the Mushrooms. He spent his waking hours tending to the manure boxes in which grew a main staple of the tribe. The boxes were stacked in many rows in a large domed mud hut that Samasham was giving particular notice to today. There was a crack in the roof, through which was pouring in light. Mushrooms could not stand the light, they needed manure and to be kept in the dark!
Samasham gasped as he followed the the path of the light through some of the mushroom boxes. To his horror, he found strange things growing in them – strange green things! This could mean many changes. This could mean the end of the use of mushrooms as a tribe food in favor of these strange green things. This could mean the end of his rule as Guardian of the Mushrooms.
Samasham found his servant Thamasho and ordered him to fix the mushroom hut’s roof, while he went to the salt bins to get something that would fix the green things.
“Tote those rails! Lift those ties! Drop that load!” shouted the rail boss as his gang completed another length of track: three parallel metal rails laid across wooden ties that stretched behind them into the starlit desert horizon. Ahead of them lay more trackless desert.