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He turned away and rapidly descended the ramp. Avoiding Kelleher and the cargo crew, for goodbyes would take too long, he trotted smoothly over the spacefield, feeling curiously lighthearted now. Part of the quest was over; Steve was back on board the Valhalla. But Alan knew the real work was just beginning. He would search for the hyperdrive; perhaps Hawkes would help him.
Minutes ago, Tanith had been six and a half billion miles away. Seconds ago, fifty-odd million. And now, a quarter of a million, and looking close enough to touch in the screen, it would take them eight hours to reach it. Why, on hyperdrive you could go forty-eight trillion miles in that time.
"The terms of our charter, set down by Alexander Lexman himself, specify that we are to work toward improvements in the technique of space travel. It said nothing about fantasies and daydreams. No ah hyperdrive research is taking place at this institute, and none will take place so long as we remain true to the spirit of Alexander Lexman."
He tried to tell himself that this was a jungle world where morality didn't matter, and that the million credits he'd gain would help finance hyperdrive research. But those were thin arguments that held no conviction. There was no justification for what he was going to do. None whatsoever. But Hawkes held him in a cleft stick. There was no way out.
But in the moments of joy he pictured the finding of Cavour's ship, the building of a fleet of hyperdrive vessels. The distant stars within almost instantaneous reach! He would tour the galaxies as he had two years ago toured Earth. Canopus and Deneb, Rigel and Procyon, he would visit them all. From star to bright star, from one end of the universe to the other.
And perhaps somewhere out there was someone he could talk to about the hyperdrive, someone influential who might spur the needed research. The Earther city seemed to be calling to him. It was a voice that was hard to resist. He savagely jammed down deep inside him the tiny inner voice that was trying to object. He turned, looking backward at the dingy dreary buildings of the Enclave.
He knew all 176 of them like members of his own family which they were, in a sense. There was nothing mysterious about anyone, nothing new. And that was what Steve had wanted: something new. So he had jumped ship. Well, Alan thought, development of a hyperdrive would change the whole setup, if if He hardly found the quarantine to his liking either.
Their hyperdrive at the time had been slow to transition; when an Imperial ship appeared within seconds, it was only natural that they'd interpret it as a threat. And scoutships were armed had to be so that even if the ship hadn't tried to attack, it was obviously not harmless.
Hawkes had known long before Alan himself realized it that he would not leave with the Valhalla. The Cavour Hyperdrive, that was the rainbow's end Alan would chase now. He would accept Hawkes' offer, become the gambler's protege, learn a few thing about life. The experience would not hurt him.
I want to stay behind on Earth. By our charter you can't deny such a request." Captain Donnell moistened his lips slowly. "Agreed, I can't deny. But why, Alan?" "I think I can do more good Earthside. I want to look for Cavour's old notebooks; I think he developed the hyperdrive, and if I stay behind on Earth maybe I can find it. Or else I can build my own. So long, Dad.