It seemed only a short while before he was again awoken from the deep timeless
sleep the purple gas brings and for a moment he wondered if he had been asleep at all.
The pod lid was open and he was aware of Comp's voice calling him. There was no
urgency in the voice but Nyel was very aware of the situation that they had been in last time. The tone of Comp's voice was
nothing to go on.
He quickly climbed out of the pod and went to the control cabin.
“Have you found Earth, Comp?”
“I'm afraid not Nyel, but I have found an Earth type planet.”
“Why did you awaken me? You were supposed to record all Earth types and
continue to search for Earth!”
“Your instructions were to search for Earth until the time period of twenty
seven point six years had elapsed and then return to the planet that most resembles Earth. Unfortunately, I have not been
able to locate Earth and I have only just found an Earth type planet. I thought that you should be awoken,” replied
“You mean that twenty seven and a half years has gone by already!”
Nyel could not believe it.
“No. More than that, I'm afraid. It has taken me two hundred and forty years
and three months to find this one planet that is an Earth type. I think it is a significant find as it is the only planet
that I have found with an atmosphere that is suitable for sustaining human life.
There is also some form of vegetation on the planet, some of which could be suitable
for human consumption.
“In fact, the planet is so closely matched to Earth that in all probability
the vegetation would resemble that found on Earth. The gravitation is slightly greater than that of Earth. The day is twenty-five
hours and three minutes and four seconds long compared to Earth. The planet is the fourth of a system of twelve and the only
one suitable for human habitation. The tilt of the planet is...”
“All that can wait until later, Comp.” Nyel interrupted the flow of
information that was coming from Comp. He knew that unless he stopped Comp, the flow would continue until every scrap of information
was exhausted. All that concerned Nyel was that Diata and the children were going to be safe and have somewhere that was acceptable
“Where and when would be the best place and time to land on the planet,
“I have already selected a location that appears to be ideal for an initial
base. It is close to a lake and to a large wooded area that would be useful for timber. As for the time, that is for you to
decide. I'm afraid that we sustained some damage eighty-two years ago. A meteor succeeded in penetrating the shell of one
of the stabilisers, seriously damaging it. The stabilisers are necessary for landing under gravitational pull.”
Nyel groaned. It seemed that whenever he spoke to Comp he used the words 'unfortunately'
or 'I'm afraid'. It seemed that nothing was going right and he wished that he hadn't been so eager to accept the position
of First Father of the First Family. This was not Voltar THREE where the roboteams had prepared a base and would do all the
really heavy work. This was a planet that they were going to have to work and build a home and base from scratch.
“How bad is it? Can I repair it?” He asked. Why had he insisted on
taking his own spacecraft? The larger vessels of the W.C.S.C. were self-maintaining and were large enough to carry repair
workshops and spares. Their computers were capable of organising the robots to conduct such repairs. It wasn't that he was
irresponsible. The need for repairs in space was so rare these days that one never thought about it.
“It is quite impossible to repair, we do not have the necessary parts. It
was an astronomically long chance that such an accident would happen. I don't think any craft would be carrying spares of
that nature, although the workshops would be able to make them.”
“Can we get down there?” Nyel was getting just a little annoyed with
Comp's way of including unnecessary information in conversation.
“Yes, but there is, of course, the danger of landing heavily or even at
an angle which would cause the vessel to fall after touchdown. The chance of sustaining further damage is quite high. That
is why you have to decide.”
Nyel decided to see what Diata thought. He felt that she should have a say in
the matter before he put all their lives in danger.
“Open pod two, Comp.”
He moved to the port that overlooked the planet and looked out. The planet certainly
looked Earth like. He could see the white smear of clouds over the surface. They looked motionless, but he knew they were
drifting across the planet, carried along by whatever currents there were.
“Hi! Have we arrived?” Diata came into the control cabin and came
to his side, “Is that Voltar THREE?” She put her arm around him and looked out at the planet.
“Yes and no,” replied Nyel. “Yes, we have arrived and no, that
isn't Voltar THREE.”
He told her everything that had happened since they had left Earth. He told her
about the malfunction, his decision to let Comp find Earth or an earth type and about the damage to stabilisers. He told her
of the danger of attempting to land with a stabiliser out of commission and how it could destroy the ship and possibly them
When he had finished, Diata had a horrified expression on her face.
“Do you mean to tell me that I'm over two hundred and sixty years old?”
Her hands went to her face, fingertips feeling her skin for lines and wrinkles, “I can't believe it!”
Nyel couldn't help being a little amused at her sense of priorities. She was more
concerned about her age than the situation that they were in.
“You haven't aged a day, Diata, you are just as you were when
you entered the pod. Now seriously, we have to make up our minds
whether to take a chance and land the ship or go down in the shuttle. There is no way that we can use the shuttle to take
everything that we need to set up a base. On the other hand, if we take the ship we could end up crashing.”
“We need the ship to get ourselves established, surely. We have to take.
The emergency house is in the hold along with all the medical supplies and our belongings. It has to be the ship.” There
was no hesitation in her decision.
“I would like to make a suggestion, if I may.” Comp's voice broke
in on their conversation, “You could decide to go down in the shuttle and I would attempt to land the ship after you
have landed. Although it would be better with someone at the controls to assist manually, there is a chance that I can land
the craft without too much damage.”
“Of course! Why didn't I think of it before! Diata, you will take the children
down in the shuttle. I will follow you down with the ship. That way we are not putting the children in any danger. When you
get down, keep well away from the shore of the lake that Comp has chosen for our base. Comp will try to set down close to
the shore.” said Nyel, relieved that he had made his mind up. His concern for Diata and the children’s safety
over, he felt better. Diata was perfectly capable of taking the shuttle down safely.
“Wait a minute! Don't I get a say in this?” Diata was not at all keen
on leaving Nyel to face the danger in bringing the ship down. “Why can't we just go down and see what's there first,
then you can come back up here later and bring it down. The planet may not be suitable.”
The suggestion was a good one, Nyel had to admit, but he knew there was little
chance of finding another Earth type and he wanted to get things over while he still had the nerve. He knew there was a danger
of being injured or even killed in landing a ship that was unstable. Although it was one of the smaller models, it was still
some considerable size and weight.
“No. It is going to have to be this planet or none. Comp has searched for
two hundred and forty years and only came up with this. You will take the shuttle with Peto and Eelan.” Nyel was adamant
and waved aside the protest she was about to make.
Diata looked at him. She realised from experience that nothing could make him
change his mind, and reluctantly accepted his decision by turning away from him and addressing Comp.
“Comp, will you open the other pods, please?” she asked quietly, “I
will get the children prepared for the shuttle.”
Nyel well knew what that quiet tone meant. He rolled his eyes upward. He was in
her bad books, at least for the moment.
“There is no need to rush off. We can have something to eat and discuss
plans. Besides, it will have to be decided exactly where you should land so as to be close but safe. We could do that better
after we have got used to the idea. Let's eat first, huh?”
“You want me to cook you a meal before I go, is that it?” Diata said,
still annoyed with him.
“No, it's not that and you know it. You know that you taking the children
down in the shuttle is the safest way, and you said yourself that we need the ship. And we do! Everything that is on the ship
is needed down there if we are going to survive. You know it makes sense.”
Diata had to agree. She nodded and said, “I'm sorry, I was being unreasonable.
It's because I love you so much that I don't want you to risk it. At the same time I suppose I know that you are a good space
man and can handle this ship as good as Comp can.”
“Better than Comp can under the circumstances. Comp is programmed to lift
off and land with everything in working order. He would take the ship down as if all the stabilisers were working as normal.
That would be disastrous.”
“OK. You've talked me into it. Does that mean I don't have to get you a
meal,” asked Diata, “or do I still have to feed you?”
“You still have to feed me,” replied Nyel.
“And us too!” Peto and Eelan had come into the control cabin looking
for their mother just in time to hear the mention of food.
“I've no choice now, do I? Who let you out?” Diata frowned at them.
“The lids were open, mummy.” Three years old Eelan's voice was full
of concern that they may have done something to make their mother angry with them.
“I believe that you instructed me to open the pods, Diata, so I did,”
Comp said, “that was your instruction, wasn't it?”
“Don't worry about it, Comp, Diata is just being a woman,” Nyel said.
He was careful not to add any more. He had won an argument and didn't want to jeopardise the victory.
Over the meal they decided that Diata would leave with the children the moment
that their orbit brought them to the point best suited for entering the atmosphere of the planet.
Diata left everything to the mini computer that controlled the shuttle. The program
had been fed into the shuttle's computer system by Comp. The entry into the atmosphere had to be perfect if the shuttle was
to be in one piece when it was time for touchdown. It was only when the time came for the choice of the precise landing spot
and the actual touchdown that Diata would touch the controls. That part was easy. All that was required was the movement of
the joystick to direct the shuttle forward, backward or sideways. A control lever beside the joystick would cause the craft
to rise or descend when moved backwards or forwards respectively. A single pedal controlled the speed in all directions. Diata
had flown a shuttle on many occasions and was quite an expert with the very sensitive controls.
To while away the time, she pointed out various things that caught her eye to
the children as they drew closer to the planet's surface. They responded with things that they saw, excitedly crying out as
they did so. Diata was grateful that the planet absorbed their interest so much. It kept her from worrying about Nyel. She
did not feel at ease with the situation. She tried to tell herself that he would be all right but she knew the danger that
he was going to face when he brought the ship down.
It was over an hour later that the computer advised her that they were flying
through the atmosphere at a thousand feet and would be approaching the chosen site for touchdown in ten minutes. Then came
a stream of information from the computer. Speed, air pressure, air temperature, humidity and a hundred other things that
she completely ignored.
She positioned herself at the controls and waited for the computer to tell her
when to take over. She looked down at the land surface below. It was just like Earth. She saw trees. Forests of them. There
were great lakes or seas. Mountain ranges. Open spaces, covered in what must be grass. Hills and dales. Green valleys. It
occurred to her that she had seen no deserts at all on the way down but had caught a glimpse of what appeared to be a volcanic
area. This was a very fertile planet. She had seen no evidence of intelligent life. At least there were no towns or villages.
She felt relieved, as she knew that here was a place that they could all live without too much going against them.
“Thirty seconds to the selected site.” The voice of the computer broke
into her thoughts and she took hold of the joystick lightly, allowing it to move while the computer still had control.
The craft slowed until it was hovering at a thousand feet above the edge of a
large lake. Alongside the lake was a large open space bordered with a forest. The open space was roughly circular; about six
miles in diameter, scattered here and there were small clumps of trees and shrubs. Diata was impressed with Comp's choice
for the base. It would be the perfect spot.
“You may take control whenever you wish. Once again, she was pulled out
of her thoughts by the computer's voice, “There is a five mile an hour breeze coming from the east, which is in the
direction of the lake.”
“Thank you, I can read a compass, but thanks for telling me about the breeze.
I'll take over at the count of three. One, two three!” Diata did not need to take over that way. She could have just
thrown a switch. It was just that she felt that it was polite to inform the computer of her intentions. She knew that it was
silly of her but she felt better.
She moved the lever by her side forward a little and the craft dropped lower,
her eyes scanning the terrain below. They were still close to the lake and she remembered that Nyel had said to keep away
from the lake. Determined to make sure that everything was safe before she told Nyel that she was down, she moved over the
lake, skimming the surface and peering down into the water. The surf was breaking onto a sandy beach and looked inviting.
The water was the clearest she had ever seen, allowing her to see through to the bottom. She took note of the depth, since
it gradually shelved away from the beach for about nine hundred feet and then deepened suddenly. She could not tell how deep,
the bottom being lost in shadow.
She turned the shuttle around to face the shore and viewed the scene. To her right
there was a rock formation some five hundred feet high and about seven hundred feet wide. It stretched away from the beach
inland partially bordering the great field and ending in a gentle slope that was over grown with shrubs. Directly ahead of
her was the field with its patches of trees. She moved forward, climbing so that she could look down on one of the clumps
of trees and it was then that she saw the first signs of life. Among the trees were some animals about four feet high and
appeared to be standing upright. As she hovered above them they moved away. Diata noticed that they appeared to hop like kangaroos
but she could not be sure as they quickly hid among the trees, apparently afraid of the shuttle above them.
Diata took the shuttle to the edge of the field and landed, satisfied that everything
seemed safe. She called Nyel on the communicator and saw his face appear on the screen.
“We're down. Everything seems all right. In fact, it's quite a beautiful
place and I think you ought to hurry on down too!” She told him.
“We are just about to go over the night side now, I'm afraid. Comp wants
to begin the approach in three hours or so. Get some rest yourself and I'll see you later. I'm in the middle of recording
everything I can see for future use. How are the children?”
“They are asleep right now, they have had an exhausting day!” Diata
replied, “But they loved the trip down.”
“Good. OK. See you later. Oh. Don't forget to switch on the beacon, we will
home in on it.” Nyel blew her a kiss and switched off.
Diata did as he asked and then went into the small kitchen to prepare a meal for
the children and herself. She knew that it would be a long wait for her and wanted to keep herself occupied. Nyel would not
be visible to her for at least five hours.
The shuttle was as big as a large caravan, having six berths, a shower that cleaned
and recycled the water used, a small kitchen and a lounge. It was intended to be used as a temporary home while the emergency
prefabricated house stored in the hold was being put together. The prefabricated house and necessary tools and supplies along
with two robots to build it were mandatory in all space vessels. The World Council for Space Colonisation was very concerned
about the safety of space travellers.
Also in the shuttle was a large freezer containing six months supply of pre-packed
meals for a family of six. Diata selected three meals and heated them in the microwave and they sat down to eat. The meals
were not the best of meals but they were nutritious, and when one was hungry they can be even enjoyable.
It was late afternoon by the sun's position when Nyel called her on the communicator,
his face smiling at her from the screen.
“Listen to this! As the leading officer of the space vessel GP5348WXT, I,
Nyel Horrak, claim the right to name this planet, the details of which are recorded by the said space vessel's computer. I
hereby use this right to name this planet 'DIATA' This naming being legally witnessed and recorded by Comp, the ship's computer
and also witnessed by Diata Horrak, my wife.”
“That's stupid, Nyel. Who ever heard of a planet named Diata?”
“Who ever heard of any planet until it was named?” replied Nyel, “Anyway,
we are almost there now, you should be able to see us soon but I can't talk for long, this thing is a bitch. “It's very
hard to keep her steady. See you soon.” He looked a little worried and Diata was concerned.
“Is everything all right?” she asked, “Be careful. I'll be watching
out for you.”
“Don't worry. I can handle it. Got to cut off now, see you.” Nyel
sounded confident and she knew that he was a good pilot, so she wished him well and switched off.
She went outside and scanned the sky for a sign of the spacecraft but she realised
that it would still be a while before she would be able to see it. While she waited, she took in the beauty of her surroundings.
The sky was a deep blue with billowing white clouds over the mountain range in the distance. The air was still except for
an occasional gentle breeze.
“Mummy look!” Eelan's excited voice drew her attention. She was pointing
to the sky over the forest. Diata looked in the direction and saw an immense colourful cloud rising from the trees. She stared
in wonderment at the sight.
“Why, they are birds!” she exclaimed, “Aren't they beautiful,
Eelan?” Eelan nodded, her smile showing that she was pleased that she had shown her mother something. Thousands of birds
were rising from the treetops, the sun catching the colours of their plumage and reflecting them as if they were polished
mirrors. Diata wondered what had disturbed them. A moment later she saw the space craft.
“It's too soon! Something is wrong!” she thought, “He's coming
down too fast!”
The craft was coming closer, getting larger and was swaying as it traversed the
sky. It was still high but not as high as it should have been. Nyel was obviously having difficulty in controlling it. Diata
saw the main drive fire as Nyel tried to regain height but the angle of the ship was wrong and instead of rising higher, it
surged forward. It was soon almost above her and it seemed as though Nyel had regained control. She watched as the craft began
to drop down over the lake, swaying slightly as the undamaged stabilisers trying to keep it steady for the touchdown. The
scene she was watching was three miles away, even so, the cylindrical shape of the ship was quite clear as it dropped lower,
tail first, towards the blue waters of the lake. Then she suddenly realised that it was too far out. It was descending into
the deeper water that she had warned Nyel about. She shouted a warning, although she knew that Nyel could not possibly hear.
Nyel must have seen the danger at the same time, for the main drive fired again.
The great ship's descent slowed, appeared to hang motionless in the air, then began to climb. Suddenly it leaned over sideways.
She saw two stabilisers fire as Nyel tried to correct the imbalance, but he over did it. The spacecraft did a slow somersault
and then slowly began a shallow dive towards the land, gaining speed as it came closer. The swaying and yawing of the ship
gave evidence of Nyel's desperate fight for control but Diata could see that he was fighting a losing battle. From her position
it was clear to her that there was no chance of Nyel getting the nose of the ship up.
Transfixed with horror, Diata watched the ship plunge sideways. It crashed into
the mountain of rocks by the edge of the lake and she watched as it came to a halt, then rolled down the side of the mountain
amid clouds of dust. Then the sickening sound of the crash and the screeching of the Zennalloy hull against the rocks reached
As the sounds reached her, Diata spurred into action. Grabbing Eelan, she raced
to the shuttle and almost threw the child into it. Peto was at her heels and she picked him up and pushed him into the shuttle.
Getting into the control seat, she spun the shuttle around and raced to the scene of the crashed spacecraft.
It was lying on its side at the foot of the rocks, a huge dent in the incredibly
strong Zennalloy hull. The stabilisers, twisted at various angles, were obviously beyond repair. She looked up at the control
cabin ports hoping to see Nyel but could not. She screamed his name but received no answer. She went back to the shuttle and
switched on the communicator.
“Comp! Open the air lock!” she cried. The air lock hissed open instantly.
Yelling at the two children to stay put she scrambled out of the shuttle and climbed
through the air lock. She found herself standing on what was the wall of the air lock compartment. It was tilted at an angle
making it difficult for her to keep her balance as she made her way to the control cabin.
“Nyel! Nyel!” she called. There was no answer. “Nyel! Answer
She reached the control cabin and saw Nyel in the control seat. A heavy cabinet
had broken away from a wall and was lying across the lower part of his body. He was unconscious and blood was tricking from
“Oh my god! Nyel!” Diata cried. She tried to lift the cabinet off
him but it was too heavy for her to move. She looked desperately around for something that would help her but could find nothing.
“Comp! Help me!” she pleaded.
“I have already activated robo One. It is on its way to the control cabin
now to receive instructions from you, Diata. I'm afraid that there is nothing that I can do physically.” The calm voice
of Comp helped her to get a grip on herself. She had begun to panic and needed reassuring before she became hysterical. She
had not thought of the robots.
Robo One appeared at the cabin door and entered.
“Robo One, lift that cabinet off Nyel, quickly. No. Slowly. Carefully.” Diata had forgotten for the moment that the robots would obey orders to the letter, not being
able to comprehend that humans suffer pain. She must make sure that she gives precise orders to them.
As the robot gripped the heavy cabinet and effortlessly lifted it off Nyel, Diata
saw the extent of her husband's injuries. A corner of the cabinet had crushed down onto his abdomen. A dark, crimson stain
spread ominously over his tunic. She had never seen so much blood and felt so helpless. Panic welled up in her again as she
realised that Nyel was losing blood fast.
“Robo One! Get the medical chest, quickly! Hurry!” she called to the
waiting robot. The robot responded immediately moving quickly towards the door and making its way to the hold where the medical
supplies were stored.
Diata knelt by Nyel's side and put her arms around him, trying not to look at
the nauseating sight of the blood. Holding him tightly, she sobbed, moaning his name.
“Diata.” his whisper was faint and she looked up at him, relieved
that he had regained consciousness.
“Nyel, don't move. You're hurt so bad. What can I do? Robo One is getting
the medical chest. There will be dressings and pain killers in there.”
“Diata, I blew it. I should have listened to you,” Nyel said weakly.
“Don't talk. You did what you thought best. Here's the medical chest now.”
The robot had entered with the large chest. He set it down beside Diata then stood
up, waiting for further orders. Diata opened the chest and took out some thermal blankets and wrapped them around Nyel, then
started to cut away his tunic.
“Diata.” Nyel reached out and took her wrist. “Diata. It's no
use. It's too bad. I know. I'm going to die.”
“You are not! I won't let you! I'll take care of you!”
“Diata. Listen to me...You have got to take care of the kids.... You’ve
got to make it on your own.... I know you can.... Keep the beacon on.... Earth may pick up the signal and come for you.”
Nyel was getting weaker. His face was white with pain and blood loss.
“No, Nyel no!” Diata frantically tore at the wrappings of a thick
pad of dressing and pressed it to the wound in an attempt to stem the flow of blood. Nyel moaned with pain and she took a
syringe of anaesthetic and injected him, her hands shaking as she did so.
The anaesthetic began to work almost instantly and a few moments later the look
of pain on Nyel's face faded but his eyes were beginning to glaze. Diata shook him.
“Nyel! Wake up! I need you to help me treat you. Don't go to
Nyel opened his eyes and looked at her. His hand reached up to touch her cheek
and brush away a tear.
“Diata, I'm sorry, I love you,” he whispered.
“Oh, Nyel, I love you too, so much,” she hugged him and he sighed
and went limp in her arms.
“Nyel! Oh, no Nyel. No, no Nyel, no. Oh, no.” She rocked his lifeless
body in her arms, moaning and sobbing and kissing his cheek and neck.
She did not know how long she had remained there, holding him, until she became
aware of Peto calling her.
“Mummy. Eelan's crying.” Peto had climbed into the air lock and was
looking for her. She stirred and saw that it was almost dark, the lights in the cabin were on. Peto came into the control
“Mummy, Daddy. Daddy?” Peto's voice rose as he saw his father's blood
soaked tunic. Diata jumped up and ran to him. Kneeling down she turned him away from seeing his father. He turned his head
to see and Diata took his face in her hands.
“It's all right, Peto, I'm coming.” She led him out and told him to
go back to the shuttle. She went back inside and covered Nyel's body with the blankets. She took one look around and left
the ship, numbed with shock.
Diata, without being consciously aware of it, took three meals from the freezer,
heated them and placed them on the table for the two children and herself. She sat down and pushed the food on her plate around
but she could not eat. The children ate silently, stealing glances at her, sensing that it was not the time to disturb her.
When they had finished eating she put them to bed and lay down on a bed herself, still numbed with shock. Shortly after she
gave way to tears of grief, her body shaking with great sobs as her mind began to accept the horror of what had happened.
Eventually, her mind and body weary, she fell asleep.
She was awoken by the sound of Peto and Eelan arguing about something and she
wondered if she had just had a terrible nightmare and jumped out of bed to look out of the window. The crashed spacecraft
was lying there, confirming the reality, and she knew that it had not been a dream.
“Oh my God, Nyel. Why? Why did this have to happen? Why?” she said,
tears coming to her eyes. She stood by the window wondering what to do, feeling totally helpless and alone.
“Mummy, is Daddy all right?” Peto had come to her side, “Is
Daddy coming yet?”
Diata picked him up and hugged him tightly, fighting back the tears,
“Peto. Oh, Peto. Daddy won't be able to be with us any more. We have got
to try to get on without him. He wants us to remember him and work hard to make this our home.”
Peto was too young to understand. He had seen his father on the ship.
“Is Daddy hurt? Will he get better?” he asked.
“No, Daddy won't get better, Peto,” Diata said, her words choking
in her throat, “he's gone where he won't be in any pain any more. He was hurt really bad in the crash.”
Putting Peto down, Diata considered her next move. Finally, she decided and filled
with resolve she went out to the ship. Entering the control cabin, she saw the robot still standing where it was the night
before. She avoided looking at the still form of Nyel and spoke to the robot.
“Robo One. Empty the cabinet that you lifted and bring it outside. When
you have done that, go and get the necessary tools for digging and activate robo Two. Then both of you come and see me. I
will be in the shuttle.” She turned and left the ship, not wanting to remain in there any longer than possible in case
her strength failed and she broke down.
Going back to the shuttle, she again prepared meals for Peto and Eelan. The task
done, she went to the window and waited. The robots had opened the hold doors and were climbing down the folding steps of
the hold, their arms carrying large metal boxes that no doubt contained the tools that she had requested.
The robots placed the boxes on the ground and began to walk to the shuttle, their
stride carrying them smoothly and rapidly across the ground. Diata went out to meet them.
“Come with me, robos,” she said. She went past them to the foot of
the mountain of rocks. She looked around, then making up her mind she pointed to a spot near a large rock close to the nose
of the spacecraft.
“Dig a hole here big enough to bury that cabinet. Make it eight feet deep
and one end by this rock.”
Without hesitation, the robots went for the tools to do as she bid, digging the
large hole quickly and efficiently. When they had finished, robo One returned to the shuttle to inform Diata the hole had
“The hole that you requested has been dug and we would like you to approve
our work, Diata,” said robo One.
Diata was taken off guard for the moment. It was the first time that One had spoken
and she had not realised that the robots were capable of speech. The robot's voice was identical to that of Comp's. She thought
that it was only natural that it would be, as Comp had programmed the robots.
“Thank you,” said Diata, overcoming her surprise, “I'll come
and look now.”
The robot turned and led the way back to the hole. It was a neat oblong a little
bigger than the cabinet. The sides were straight and the corners' square. She looked down into the hole. The bottom was flat.
Beside the hole was the mound of soil that had been dug out. It too, was neat and tidy, evidence that the robots worked with
Diata's heart became heavy as she thought of what she had to do next. Steeling
herself, she instructed the robots to bring Nyel's body from the ship and place it in the cabinet that had caused his death.
They were then to bury the cabinet and to make a tower of rocks over the grave.
When the robots had completed their tasks, Diata viewed the result. She nodded
in approval. This pile of rocks would be a monument to her husband, to keep him in her mind and to remind her children that
they once had a father that loved them.