Obliquities: Ordinary Survey, Well Past The Counted Line, 1



These Stellarcores sure hit me with a thrill.
Bartender, set another round up please;
and some also for my inquisitive
young friend.  And put it all on my tab, now.
To turn now to your question, I have spent
most of my life traversing outer space,
on varied missions.  In all that distance
and time, I have experienced just one
direct mishap or accident.  My own
record for safety does exceed most of my
peers', even though I shipped out more than most
(but that is yet another story for
another night and round of Stellarcores).
The incident you ask of happened on
my first, far hitch beyond the local jaunts.
That was a planetary survey ship.
My job, my sole responsibility,
was monitoring automatic feeds
by which a planet's profile was compiled.
Our ship had been posted to a remote
arm of the galaxy---an area

not much explored, well past the counted line,
because it had little to offer us
by way of raw materials.  Not much
had changed since the last survey, long before
my fifth degree grandsires had entered space.
But someone on some high floor far from us
thought that another survey should be done.
What was to gain from so remote a place,
so far from the galactic usages?---
a certain planet, small and brightly blue,
circling a mediocre yellow star,
and with a single, cratered satellite.
The planet was inhabited by a
comparatively primitive species,
upright in walk like us, but crude in thought,
illiterate in language---about where
our species had been once, the fifth era
of our fourth, and longest, antiquity.
They could forge iron, and operated steam
driven machines; but not much more than that.

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