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 Outside - Full Circle

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TerishD


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PostSubject: Outside - Full Circle   November 1st 2010, 8:05 am

Outside - Story Twenty-One
Full Circle

Part One

Naomi just gave me a plate of food. She has done this before, but I have never eaten in the kitchen. As the health of everyone declined on the first mission, I retreated into my room. It then happened, and decisions were made. Since that time I stayed in my room and allowed my name to be slandered. While I enjoyed my music and my privacy, it felt good to be served in the kitchen.

I smiled at Naomi, but I dropped it for Thor. He just stepped into the kitchen holding a bottle of champagne in one hand. Instead of opening it, he set a wine glass in front of me. He then lifted his other hand to show a bottle of whiskey. Smiling at me, he filled my wine glass with hard liquor. Proudly looking the man in the eyes, I downed the liquid.

I doubt that any of you know who I am. I understand, but it is time to set the record straight. I was the weak link in Thor’s plan, but he had no plan, except to hire the best. The simple fact that I was hired to work on the Menlo Park should have boldly proclaimed that there was something wrong with our story on the first mission with this crew. I did my part. I proved that I could handle the challenge. It is now time for me to take my place as a proud member of the Menlo Park.

My name is Terrance Stafford. On Earth I was called Terrance a lot, but only by those who never tried to know me. If anyone asked me my name, instead of simply referencing my Earth ID card, you would know to call me Terry.

I grew up on Earth. The planet is very crowded, but I kept myself ahead of the pack. In public schools where the enrollment abounded in thousands, I stayed among the handful that had excellent scores. College was a transition, but one that I overcame to again achieve high scores. All of my colleagues sought advanced positions, but I always had my goals set higher. I had the good fortune to live in a time when one could stop the world and get off, and that is what I planned to do.

My immediate family had no money, but they did have connections. It was however not my family, but I, myself, gained the recognition. I knew that I had a rich uncle. Instead of my father having to make deals with his brother, all he had to do was brag about me. Uncle Ernest saw what I was achieving, and understood how little his own children were accomplishing. The deals that he offered me were to inspire his own children. I don’t think he gained anything but their contempt, while I often send word to Uncle Ernest to let him know how proud I am of him.

Thor would have preferred gaining a more experienced chemist, but my grades were not to be denied and my references were strong. I took the job as medic merely to satisfy a requirement. It increased my pay, and enabled Thor to leave without any more hassles from government officials.

I don’t know exactly why we had the illnesses that we had on the first mission. I fully believe that it happened because a crew of such notable personalities push themselves a little too much. Our problems were a mixture of poor nutrition, excessive work, and a mixture of not following proper doses on some medicines. I was trying not to make a scene with people that I respected, and I believe that was my undoing.

That is mostly where Naomi does a better job than me. She will defy those who should have more experience or simply more rank. I don’t know how much trouble she presents to Clover, although he and Naomi seem to be comfortable with each other while speaking of having children. She will stand up to her husband however. I have seen her stand up to Thor. That makes her the better medic.

It was Harley and Darlene that first recognized the thing that changed our lives. Harley had gone to her station to handle the transfer of point pilots, but stayed simply because she noticed a strange signal. Darlene even at that time had a reputation for being an extroverted presence on the regular broadcast channel. She was a lot more alert and authoritarian than most realized, so noticed Harley having her board active. It was Darlene that silenced her chatter and put the ship on alert, and working with Harley the signal was isolated.

Diamond takes credit for seeing the craft first, but Felix made the initial confirmation. For a military trained pilot, he looks out his windows a lot. He thus saw and recognized something that our sensors could not really handle.

I don’t believe anyone actually realized what we were seeing as we made that first fly-by. I stayed in the kitchen and watched the main screen from the doorway. Most others however passed me to find a place to stand or sit in the bridge. I remember it being quiet as I watched us fly past the alien spaceship.

Clover quickly gave Darlene the vectors to enable another fly-by. His computer pulled the scans from our sensors while others asked questions on the second flight past the strange ship. By the end of that run Clover was giving answers to some questions.

Castle worked with Clover to answer more questions on the third pass, and he gave the suggestion to try the parachute. When Sandra told him it was a crazy idea, he argued with her. I don’t know if the two slept with each other, but I know that they were smiling at each other when Diamond was told to bring his boat into a repair bay in order to be fitted with the parachute release package.

Felix, Indigo, and Watson showed up to discuss what we had found with our two captains. It was a massive vessel. The Menlo Park was built for some comfort in space, so does have some size to it. This alien craft was about three times the size of Thor’s and Rachel’s ship. The Kert field forces certain properties in ship design, resulting in rather blocky structures. The alien craft was more of the design of an old rocket. The front was rounded and blunt, like that of a whale. Moving back along the craft, its diameter became bigger. At the rear the size expanded as we could see six huge engines for mixing and directing fuel. Nothing about the craft appeared alive. The nozzles were not ejecting fuel. No signals came from the craft save the spew of data that attracted our attention. All we could do was talk about what we saw.

The ship was traveling at almost five times the speed of light. There was no way that we could imagine the alien vessel as managing that feat. The first problem was that it was impossible according to our physics. The second problem was that the ship was huge, so even if possible the size of the vessel made the expenditure of fuel more than we could imagine. While we looked at the craft, we could only speak about the wonder of what we beheld.

We could not reach it. You have to understand that we do not move. We stand still and allow the universe to move around us. Our Kert field enables us to set our reference point to another object in space. Our real motion does not change, but only the reference point to which we measure our motion changes. Due to the vector caused by whatever object our Kert field locked upon, we were passing this alien craft, but we were still relatively stopped. It however traveled at almost five times the speed of light. There was no way we could reconcile the differences in momentum. Even if we could find a reference point to enable us to match its velocity, we would still be relatively stopped while it was traveling at a tremendous speed. Any contact between us would be deadly.

Clover worked with Darlene and Harley to somehow communicate with those inside the alien ship. The signal that was picked up held steady however. Rachel took over the main controls of the ship to move us around in a hope of finding a window. None could be seen.

Our absent crew members showed up to watch as Diamond moved to use the parachute. We had a velocity of about seven times the speed of light, but our elder pilot fired his thrusters to put him ahead of us so we would get a good view of his work. All credit has to go to Diamond, because he lined up perfectly. Castle and Sandra had done a wonderful job of building the launch mechanism for the parachute. The material expanded perfectly to meet the front of the alien vessel. We gasped in amazement as the fine material of the parachute stretched and glowed as it suddenly encountered more momentum than any human manufactured substance had ever suffered. We watched the spectacle and spoke of the failure. Cheers and hugs however passed around when at the end we saw that strands had somehow survived to now ride along the front of the craft.

It was when Diamond asked about a bonus that Thor mentioned the one reason that we were in space. “This ain’t worth spit. Yes, we would receive an honorarium, but this is not the money.”

Rachel put up a tactical display of the stars within a few hundred light years of us, and as we saw that the vector of this ship had passed by none of them she said, “This is a dead ship, Thor. There is no telling how long it has been traveling through space.”

“Clover, what are you getting from that signal?”

Our young pilot replied, “Nothing, Thor. It might be binary, but I am thinking that it is threes. Still, I have nothing to reference it off of. This will take a while.”

Felix interjected, “It cannot be that old, Thor. I mean, it has no maneuvering. If something is in its way, it is going to strike it. That front looks pretty thick, but anything of size is going to dent it at the speed it is traveling. We just saw our parachute partially survive an encounter. If it had been in space for an extreme amount of time, it would have an accumulation of material on its front. I thus say that we can find these aliens.”

Rachel returned, “We cannot just go off on some wild goose chase.”

Indigo asked, “Have we told anyone? Does anyone know that we are out here?”

Darlene quickly answered, “No. Harley and I shut down broadcasts as soon as we recognized the unusual signal.”

The voice of our communication officer came over the speaker, “And it is a light speed transmission. While this civilization might be able to travel over the speed of light, they have not managed to communicate with tachyons. No one else will thus know about these signals.”

I had just finished college, so I had a few extreme ideas in my head. I looked at the parachute and considered some of the projects that I had worked on with professors or considered with others in my classes that had different majors. Feeling that I had suddenly gained a practical use for some rather odd ideas, I blurted out the words that sealed my fate.

“I can give you that ship.” Everyone looked to me as I explained. “Think nano-technology. I am not talking about small, but I am talking about chemically building devices. What we need is a fabric that has much more elasticity than the parachute. Instead of having it of normal chemicals, we however have the elements to compose certain devices. After the stretch of meeting with this vessel, the strands of the fabric will contract and the devices will activate.”

Felix replied, “You are not talking about us landing on the vessel.”

“No, but I am talking about contact all the same.”

Thor asked, “Can you do it?”

“Not with what I have. The equipment aboard the ship is more for analysis than chemical design. I can start some tests, but to actually make anything I will need other stuff.”

Sandra was quick to say, “Whatever you need built.”

Rachel replied, “What Terry will need are chemicals, and you cannot build them. Even if we could, we are still talking time.”

We all went quiet for a period, then Thor said, “Okay, I am giving everyone an hour. Darlene keep making passes. In an hour I want everyone in my quarters to discuss the situation. We are going to have to come to a serious agreement, so you all better think hard about your future.”

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PostSubject: Part Two   November 6th 2010, 7:57 am

Outside - Story Twenty-One
Full Circle

Part Two

Yes, I understood my part in the agreement. I actually considered it fun at the time. Becoming an instrumental part of humanity’s first contact with an alien culture seemed the answer to a dream. I actually felt a member of the crew as I signed my name on the contract.

I really have not suffered during my time. Thor and the other crew members have publicly given me Hell, but in private they have been most kind. As I said, Naomi would bring me plates of her cooking. The other ladies would come and spend time with me. Watson even offered to make himself available, but not wanting the ladies to stop thinking of me I turned down his offer. Thor and the other men would stop to spend time playing games with me or simply chatting. I have actually had it rather nice.

Of course, the important thing was that I made good on my statement. I did devote my time into researching the chemical relationships of elasticity along with specifics of nano-technology. That left me even less time to stay aware of medical issues, but I had already gone on record as being a poor medic. All however had to admit that I was proving myself as a chemist.

I am sorry that I did not make the identification of the oxygen scrubber. Thor really did rant and fume to me about that error. I know that he supposedly did such to me on a number of other occasions, but on that one he really got angry with me. I would have liked to have gained that bonus, but I failed.

Speaking of bonuses, yes, Naomi struck more gold than simply marrying one of the richest bachelors in the universe. In gaining the duties of medic, she is authorized to receive a share of the profits of the ship. What few realize was that in signing the contract, I would gain two shares should my parachute work. I thus gladly gave up my one share as medic to assure the two shares at the completion of my job.

I have been living in my quarters working on chemical brews to assure that I would not fail at my tasks. I have not told anyone the truth, not even my uncle that deserves some credit for getting me this job. He is not a stupid man, so I am positive that he suspects. I however have kept my part of the bargain and stayed focused on assuring of a certain result.

The others have held true to their promises as well. Those programs that Clover started using with Prastin were not computer routines quickly designed for the moment, but code that he had been developing for quite some time. He however felt dejected as he had to admit one fault in his scheme.

He and Castle came in one time followed by Thor, where our youngest pilot said, “I have the chemical design for a tachyon re-transmitter. It has to be tachyon. Re-transmitting the alien signal on radio would simply duplicate the problems that we already have with the signal.”

Thor quickly realized the obvious. “So others will know.”

“It will be a weak signal,” Clover said with some hope entering his voice, although it quickly died as he added, “but, yes, others will find it.”

Our captain sternly said, “Darlene, come to Terry’s apartment.”

We looked at the designs Clover and Castle had created for putting a tachyon re-transmitter in the material for the next parachute to go around the alien craft while waiting for our night helmsperson to arrive. As was normal for Clover, it was not a straight-forward mechanism. He had planned in a few safeguards and redundant circuits to increase the odds of success. Thor was nodding for approval even as he kept looking at the door waiting for Darlene.

When the lady arrived, our captain said, “I hope that you have been planning our announcement.”

“I believe that I know how to do it. Sharon’s father lives alone around Neptune. He is quite devoted to his daughter, and is a known listener to my broadcasts. I thus believe that we can safely send him a message, and trust him to handle it properly.”

Thor beamed with approval as he said, “That is what we need. Clover says that he is going to have to re-transmit the alien’s signal over tachy. It is going to be weak, but others will be able to find it. It should however take some time, and that plays in our favor.”

“That is what I am hoping for as well. By having our announcement come from another source than us, gives us time to move in silence.”

“Wonderful. Okay, Terry, include Clover’s device. Oh, what else do we have?”

I answered, “Felix and Sandra have come up with a thumper. It is like Clover’s device, very weak, but they are hoping that it will do enough to be recognized by sensors within the craft. Watson gave me plans for a schematic rover. I believe that it is a military construction, but no reason not to use it. It is a device that will move about the ship plotting points. What should eventually result is a very detailed schematic of the hull that we can use to determine portals and other construction details.”

Darlene asked, “How are they going to transmit their data?”

“They were depending upon Clover’s re-transmitter.”

Our youngest pilot returned, “That is why I assured a method of adjusting my device. Depending on what the stretching does to everyone’s devices, I want to be able to go looking for a signal.”

With the approval of the captain, I returned to my work. Building a special parachute of material with certain properties while including the chemicals for certain devices was a very specialized and exacting process. I needed the time isolated to assure purity standards. Thus, while everyone was being made to feel sorry for me, or simply to wonder why I was even allowed to stay on board the Menlo Park, I was diligently working.

When Naomi became a member of the crew, she quickly realized that the story she had been told of me was not true. On her first visit to my apartment she understood that I was quite active with something important. As I already said, she began to bring me plates of her cooking.

I felt that it would be easy keeping Doug in the dark, as he was confined to a certain area of the ship. He had however made a life of living alone with his only communication with humanity over devices. Having access to the internal speakers of the Menlo Park, he thus heard things that most did not. Our apartments are all private, so it should not have been surprising that one could not access my internal speakers or cameras. The crew of the Menlo Park are however a rather friendly group, so I guess that Doug did come to understand that my privacy codes were a little better protected than others in the ship.

I had to mute my stereo one day as I heard Doug ask, “Terry, what are you up to?”

One thing that college can teach you is that denial often hides nothing. “Listening to music. Do you want to hear?”

“I might be old, but I am not an old fool. What are you doing as you listen to that music? Specifically, you are the chemist. What are doing with your chemicals?”

Attempting humor along with my subversion, I said, “Nothing legal.”

“I don’t believe that, because I don’t see it. You are talking to me quite rationally. The wine, beer, and harder stuff I see being consumed has all been overtly brought on board. Whatever you are doing, it is not entertainment oriented.”

“Well, you are on board, so I guess that you will learn, but I won’t be the one that spills the beans.”

The man paused for a moment, then said, “I know that you graduated at the top of your class.”

I returned, “Thor only hired the best.”

“God bless you, son. Your career has taken quite a beating the last few years.”

“No, it has not. Everyone knows that Thor kept me on. There are thus a number like you, Doug, simply waiting for an explanation.”

“Of course you know, when I get I my explanation I will photograph it.”

I smiled as I replied, “I hope that you do.”

Everyone became nervous as we left Batchelor. While we knew that we had left the saucer people behind, the knowledge of what lied ahead bothered even those who did not have a stake in the coming rendezvous with the alien spaceship. I kept being bothered by everyone looking over my work. Finally, Sandra and Castle came in with the lady asking the important question.

“How will this be different than last time?”

That was not a stupid question. I had even considered it. I thus had an answer ready.

“This material is a lot more elastic than the parachute. Instead of getting a nice spread like you did with the parachute, you might end up with a more X-like result.”

Castle asked, “Is it just a matter of time?”

Sandra answered for me. “No, because the elasticity might have the material jump from an X-like position to a +-like shape. We will need to assure uniform spread.”

I spoke my agreement. “Yes, I am slightly worried about the material snapping back. Not just position, but distance could be very important.”

Castle returned, “Okay, we will work with a modified design of our original chute device. I would like to be able to refold the material if necessary.”

I replied, “We should be able to use the repair bay. The material is sturdy enough, just has some odd properties. The repair bay should give us enough room.”

Sandra said, “I am proud of you, Terry. If this works, I won’t only spend time with you, but I might let you call me your girlfriend.”

She was slightly older than I would desire, but she did have a nice body, so I said, “Listen, if the screw-up is because of poor spread, I might no longer want you at all.”

One of her hands went to pat one of my cheeks, and the other went to pat one of Castle’s cheeks as she said, “You heard the man, fly-boy. We got to get this right.”

I did not question their earlier design, and did nothing to oversee their present work. I simply moved to the kitchen. After eating some of Naomi’s cooking with the others, I moved into the bridge to watch as we again tried to make contact with aliens.

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PostSubject: Part 3   November 11th 2010, 8:19 am

Outside - Story Twenty-One
Full Circle

Part Three

We all knew that we were in the right area. Enough data had been gathered on the previous mission for us to verify most facts. A number of irregularities however could have occurred in the years between then and now, but we all hoped that nothing had happened to destroy our expectations.

Diamond proudly announced that he heard a signal. Indigo quickly confirmed the statement, and I saw Darlene point at her board saying that she had picked up the signal long ago. We all thus came alert from our relaxed positions to be ready for the action.

I thought of a beam of light as we recognized the great ship coming before us on the main monitor. Anything can stop a photon, but the sky is filled with points of light. That means that a multitude of photons have journeyed for hundreds, thousands, even billions of years without encountering an obstacle. We have no idea how long this ship had been moving through the cosmos, but it also had yet to be stopped.

Thor turned on a spotlight and had it shine into the engine nozzles. We all had felt bad that we had not done so on any of our earlier fly-bys. Exactly what knowledge it could reveal I could not say. I was not an engineer, although I knew Thor, Sandra, Castle, and possibly others considered that might reveal something. As we moved on forward along the vessel, we did not have a vector that would enable us to stay along with it, we again sought for some indication of a window. As we cheered to see the strands of our earlier parachute still present, the voice of the one that did not know about the vessel came over the speaker.

“What in Hell is that?”

Rachel replied, “Take your pictures, Doug.”

“I am, along with those of you on the bridge. Still, what is that?”

“You are seeing what we saw years ago. Just take your pictures Doug.” She then spoke to another. “Darlene, bring in our points. Move Diamond into the repair bay.”

The voice of Harley came over the speaker to say, “Sandra and Castle are ready for the old man.”

The voice of Diamond now came over the speaker. “Hey, hush with the old man talk. I will deliver this package with as much precision as I did the one before.”

Clover returned, “Probably more, because you have better equipment now.”

“Same heart and liver.”

Thor said, “Don’t know about the heart, but we will work on the liver after you deliver that package.”

“Roger that, Captain. I am looking forward to a celebration myself.”

As we dropped to below light speed to allow the alien vessel to pass us so we could pass it again, Thor asked, “Clover, are you now able to make sense of the transmission?”

“I believe that they are nine-three signals, Thor. That is about all I can tell you at the moment.”

Thor then asked, “Are you ready for another set of pictures, Doug?”

The voice of the elder asked, “This thing is moving faster-than-light? How did you ever find it?”

The voice of Harley now came over the speaker to say, “Well, it wasn’t Clover. Darlene and I get the credit for this find.”

“I want some re-enactments.”

Thor replied, “I am sorry to say that you will have time to arrange that.”

“Why is that?”

“Because we still have the same problem with this thing we had years before. We are going to have to leave it.”

Doug could be heard to sputter for a bit before he managed to simply ask, “What?”

“I thought you liked going deep into space, Doug.”

The elder whistled before saying, “Oh, my God. I never suspected this.”

Darlene replied, “You must be the only one. I dodge those types of questions all the time. Still, make your video, Doug. We want to inform people, but we need to just keep them ignorant long enough for us to earn all the money available.” I saw a light activate on her board, and she said, “Diamond is away, Thor.”

Our captain said, “Perfect timing, Diamond. No pressure, but we are all watching.”

“Oh, NO!” the elder photographer exclaimed.

Clover asked, “What is it, Doug?”

“I don’t want a single perspective. Get other pilots out there.”

Thor signaled Darlene to lock on Diamond and simply make a normal pass. He then worked with Clover to set up a tactical that would give a good multi-layered view of the coming event. Felix, Indigo, and Watson were then called to duty. All moved into position as we again fell behind the alien craft. As we again approached, all waited knowing that history would be recorded with a spectacular record of our success or failure.

I don’t know how Sandra and Castle managed to gain such a fantastic spread of my fabric, but it blossomed out in a wonderful stretch of material. I had wanted to work in a design, but color demands its own type of chemicals, and I did not want to chance failure with contaminates. I marveled at the billowing fabric as it was stretched, although wished that it had been more elaborate.

Almost electric sparks of light danced along the fabric as it was caught by the great alien craft. My material went from a stable fabric that I had held in my hand to something that was rushed in a surge of momentum to speeds that our science said that it could never achieve. I would not be ever able to touch my fabric again. All I could do was watch with hope that my child would fulfill its destiny.

“I HAVE A SIGNAL!” Clover shouted.

With that statement, everyone began screaming and yelling. Somehow over the commotion, Felix, Sandra, and Watson managed to ask about their devices. With verification of their operation, the loud voices continued.

Finally, came the moment when Thor left to get the things he felt needed to be present. Our pilots returned, and they showed up in the kitchen. When I drank my wine glass filled with whiskey, I had every eye watching me. Cheers erupted as I set down the glass without vomiting or collapsing. I knew at that moment that I had indeed returned in status as being a member in good standing of the crew of the Menlo Park. Thor verified such with his words.

“You have been put under a lot of pressure, Terry, but you handled it.” He popped the top on the bottle of champagne as he said, “To everyone aboard this ship, I want you all to know that you are the best of the best. I will go down in history as not simply owning the ship that first found alien life AND the first ship to encounter intelligent alien life, but simply as someone who stood among the great. I would not be who I am without you. I am glad that this celebration is not due to a parting, but due to each of you proving your worth. We have more to do, all of us, but we go there together, and together we can achieve the impossible.”

We all drank of the beverages. Naomi had some special pastries prepared, and we ate them. We all spoke good words to each other. Every lady except Naomi and Indigo told me that they would give me some of their time. Watson did as well, but I still have no plans to take him up on his offer. I drank enough to where I actually felt like I might throw up, but that is when Thor asked a sobering question.

“Felix, don’t you have the next step on our journey?”

“Yes, Thor, but I want another fly-by. I could be wrong. They could be independents like us, but I believe those aliens were military. They thus died in the call of duty. They deserve some respect.”

It took some time to regain position, but soon enough we again saw the alien vessel appear on the front monitor. Champagne was again poured. This time a quiet toast was drank as we watched the alien vessel move by us. Feeling sorry that we had never met our fellow travelers through space, we wished them God speed.

As Felix moved up to the main board, he said, “We are going to need points, Thor. This vector is among the fastest that we know of.”

Rachel replied, “Clover, Watson, you are on duty in four hours. Go get some sleep. Whoever else believes that they can handle four hours of point, go to your boats.”

Indigo moved up to kiss Felix, then she asked him how he felt about being one of the first to lead the way to an alien civilization. He turned to grab the lady and put a lip lock upon her. Breaking from the embrace, he said that he would do so gladly. She watched as he punched the vector into the board, then the two left for their boats.

All laughed as Harley suddenly moved up to the main board, then activated a duplicate of her normal operations board to initiate the warming of Felix and Indigo’s boat. While she punched the instructions crisply enough, she slurred her words in telling Thor that it would be a few minutes before the pilots would be ready to fly. The captain did not reply, but only moved up to refill her glass of champagne and tell her that there was no rush.

The celebration continued, but at a much lower level. Just as Harley had operated her controls with confidence, Darlene expertly moved the points into position. It was Thor that however displayed some uncertainty in doing his job. He set down his glass as if to indicate an end of the celebration before he spoke.

“None of us know where we are going.”

Doug’s voice came over the speaker. “God does. May he see us there in good health.”

Thor again lifted his glass as he added, “And in good spirits!”

With all of us rejoicing in the start of the next leg in our journey, we left the alien vessel behind. I set down my glass to return to my room, but stopped suddenly no longer wanting to spend time there. Believing that I deserved resting off my drunk on the floor of the bridge, I refilled my glass and stayed sharing the camaraderie of my fellow crew members.

_________________
Fantasy puts more requirements on the writer than any other fiction, because the world must be made as real before anything else can be real.
Adult Christian fiction quite different than all the usual lame stuff in that market.  "Dilemma of Dreams" now in hard back.
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Outside - Full Circle
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