What do you say about my first poem ?: Winters on Ballybran were generally mild, so the fury of the first spring storms as they howled across the land was ever unexpected. This first one of the new season swept ferociously across the Milekey Ranges, bearing before its westward course the fleeing sleds of crystal singers like so much jetsam. Those laggard singers who had tarried too long at their claims were barely able to hold their bucking sleds on course as they bolted for the safety of the Heptite Guild Complex. Inside the gigantic Hangar, its baffles raised against the mach winds, ordered confusion reigned. Crystal singers lurched from their sleds. half deafened by windscream, exhausted by their turbulent flights. The Hangar crew, apparently possessed of eyes in the backs of their heads, miraculously avoided injury as they concentrated on the primary task of moving incoming sleds off the Hangar floor and into storage racks, clearing the way for the erratic landings of the
stream of incoming vehicles. The crash claxon pierced even storm howl as two sleds collided, one to dip over the baffle and land nose down on the plascrete while the other veered out of control like a flat rock skipping across water, coming to a crumpling halt against the far wall. A tractor zipped in to fasten grapples on the upside-down sled, removing it only seconds before another sled skimmed over the baffle. That sled almost repeated the nose dive, pulling up at the last second and skidding across the Hangar floor to stop just inches away from the line of handlers carrying the precious cartons of crystal in to Sorting. Only a near miss, the incident was disregarded even by those who had barely escaped injury. Killashandra Ree emerged from the sled, taking as a good omen the fact that her sled had skidded to a halt so close to the Sorting Sheds. She caught the arm of the next handler to pass her and firmly diverted him to her cargo door, which she flung open. She didn’t have much crystal, so every sp
eck she had cut was precious to her. If she didn’t earn enough credit to get off-planet this time . . . Killashandra ground her teeth as she hurried her carton into the Sorting Shed. As the man she had pressed into her service quite properly put her carton down at the Hangar end of a line of ranked containers, Killashandra’s patience evaporated. “No, over here!” she shouted. “Not there! It’ll take all day to be sorted. Here.” She waited until he had deposited her carton in the indicated row before adding her own. Then she strode back to her sled for a second load, himbeere pflanzen cursos de verano etiquette sesame raccolte fotografica commandeering two more unencumbered handlers on the way. Only after eight cartons were unloaded did she permit herself to pause briefly, coping with the multiple fatigues that assailed her. She had worked nonstop for two days, desperate to cut enough crystal to get off Ballybran. Crystal pulsed in her blood and bones, denying her rest in sleep, surcease by day, no matter how she tried to tire her body. Her only respite was immersion in the radiant fluid bath. But no one cut crystal from a bathcube! She had to get off-planet to ease the disturbing thrum. For over a year and a half, ever since the Passover storms had shattered Keborgen’s old claim, she had searched unremittingly for a workable site Killashandra was real
ist enough to admit to herself that the probability of finding a new claim as important and valuable as Keborgen’s black crystal was very low. Still, she had every right to expect to find some useful, and reasonably lucrative, crystal in Ballybran’s Ranges. And, with each fruitless trip into the Ranges, the credit balance she had amassed from her original cutting of Keborgen’s site and from the Trundomoux black crystal installation had eroded beneath the continuous charges the Heptite Guild exacted for even the most minor services rendered a crystal singer. By fall, when everyone else she knew — Rimbol, Jezerey and Mistra — had managed to get off-planet, she had labored on, unable to make a worthwhile claim in any color. During the mild winter, she had doggedly hunted in the Ranges, returning to the Complex only long enough to replenish food packs and steep her crystal-weary body in the radiant fluid. “You really ought to take a week or two up at Shanganagh Base,” Lanzecki had said, intercepting her on one
of her brief visits.