Nov. 7th, 2011

_Sagan_ withdrew. Gliese 581f was a gas giant with beautiful violet whorled patterns and was well placed for refueling. Interrupting _Sagan_'s planned intercept of Gliese 581g had cost a lot of delta-V, more than could be passively gathered from the interplanetary void. The crew agreed that if they wanted to keep as many options open as possible, they would need to top off the tanks. Pulling back also meant they could monitor the Gliesian response and see what they would do. A few weeks of delay wouldn't hurt anything.

Korda deployed the scoop and skimmed the surface of Gliese 581f, drawing hydrogen up into the refinery unit in Module C. It worked perfectly. Back when he was a teenager, Korda had practiced the maneuver on Uranus before accelerating out of the solar system. It was good to see that the advanced planning of the mission designers was paying off.

Unfortunately, mused Korda sourly, the designers didn't predict the Gliese system being occupied by humans – humans who apparently weren't too happy to see their brothers and sisters arriving from out of town. Or perhaps they did. Korda and his crewmates were the answer to unexpected mission challenges – humans capable of synthesizing responses on the fly. Over the years Korda had wondered why this mission had required an actual human presence at all. He grudgingly admitted that perhaps that decision on the part of Earth Mission Control had been a good one.

Zenia buzzed Korda from the communications room. "I think we're going to have some company," she said. "Launches detected – a bunch of them, coming here. Significant chemical propellant signatures and very high accelerations – 5G sustained."

"Ridiculous," cut in Gold. "Over short durations, sure. Sustained 5G is unsafe."

"Unsafe for Terrestrials," Zhizhi reminded them all. "Gliese 581g has a higher mass than Earth."

"But also a larger surface radius," Korda objected. "Surface gravity will be higher that 1G, but not that much higher."

"You're assuming the launches came from Gliese 581g," said Zenia.

There was an awkward moment. "Didn't they?" Gold asked finally.

"No," said Zenia. "Gliese 581c, further in-system."

"Wait," said Korda. "You've been monitoring EM all over the system. Have you gotten any kind of signal from that planet at all?"

"Not a peep," Zenia replied.

"The plot thickens," Zhizhi said.

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September 2012

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