[LMB] Happy Birthday, Eric Oppen!

adkinslawfirm at mindspring.com adkinslawfirm at mindspring.com
Sat May 22 14:28:14 BST 2021

Per your request, an appalled Mark Vorkosigan reluctantly introduces you to a distinctly dubious contact.  [When a Jacksonian-reared, assassin-trained Vorkosigan expresses dubiety, most folks would at least pause.  Just so you know.]  She sizes you up in a rather disturbing way.  Whether she collects galactics like Ivan's Betan captain, further deponent sayeth not.  

On the nightside of the planet, a small shuttle with select crew [and you] hovers over a vast, open valley surrounded by pointed peaks.  The stars overhead are distant fireflies.  As you watch, giant fernlike plants [?] unfurl and wave disturbingly.  What answers the enticement is nothing like distant fireflies.  Your ship rises higher for safety, and the lights of giant flyers engage in complex, multi-colored visual delights.  Judging by the care your friend takes to keep the shuttle at a certain distance, you have no desire to explore further.  A while after the light show dies down, cautious crew in impressive armor go out with multiple containers, harvesting you-know-not-what.  Your friend's not informative, but is rather tense.  The contents could be rather dangerous, or the visit clandestine; you're [wisely] uninclined to question.  She takes off hot, but the harvesters, although mid-decontam procedures, do not complain.  Back at the ship, you're hustled out of the way, while they do whatever they do to process whatever they got.

Since you're up for further adventure, you ride down to the surface of the planet in a larger, much more respectable shuttle.  You're beyond shocked at the haut bubble float they put you into, but appreciate the time to practice driving it before disembarking.  The bubble's colored to reflect a certain local clan.  Crack military with similar insignia arrive to escort you and your seeming minions [much more formally dressed than you've ever seen them] to a large arena, sectioned off by large clan banners.  Apparently, there's some sort of interclan exhibition or competition.  You're treated to a display of formation drills, almost like dressage for people.  There are ritual combats with all sorts of strange weapons and martial arts.  Aral did judo better, but it's still quite impressive.  Perhaps the background susurration of your minions conducting some sort of business distracted you a bit from the various musical efforts, or maybe Barrayaran military bands really do play better.

Your escort is in some haste, so you don't get to see too much of the city, but what you do see is spacious, elegant, and well-proportioned, although with more curves than you're used to.  Then it's back to the ship for a leisurely [carefully not-hurried] departure.

Perhaps she's amused at the way her crew treats you with a sort of terrified respect, or pleased with the success of the trip, or perhaps she just wants to show off her piloting skills, but as you depart Kshatriya, she flies very close to the moon, whose methane falls are magnificent.  She gives you special glasses and flies in, through, and behind the falls several times.  Seeing the falls through the glasses does ultraviolet things to your eyes.  [After the bedazzlement fades, you suspect she used the sidetrip to affect or block detection of her ship.]

What happens after that is, of course, entirely up to you.

I hope your day is excellent.


P. S.  For general list delectation, here's some of the Stan Rogers playlist Eric enjoyed during his trip.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TVY8LoM47xI&list=PLYoKP4beDn5nd2-dGcZGTgSsHqc9zkv4u

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