By Piers Anthony
From the writer of the bestselling Xanth sequence. The egocentric and superficial population of Earth have depleted its assets. Now Starship Captain Shetland and his workforce got down to discover the void past the universe on a time-ship to discover new assets of strength. What they locate as a substitute are--ghosts.
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Supplies. Ah, Thenna! Glorified domestic, but indispensable. The crews were meshed for social traits as much as for the listed positions, and often the job title bore little relation to the person's function within the crew. He had chosen her, really, for love, and when he retired-which would be soon-he hoped to marry her. Even the pretense of personal objectivity was pointless. Her off shade eye-somehow that had held his interest, and he had sought her out after being promoted, and they had dated during time training.
How could he be sure of this man? Or was he allowing himself to be prejudiced because Johns had replaced the regular short-hop pilot Shetland had chosen? The original pilot had developed mild temporophobia and had had to be relieved. This was a common malady among the crewmen tested for this duty, but deadly to the performance of the beacon. Things had seemed good until almost the last moment; then the sudden change had had to be made, and Shetland could not fault it. Better a safe stranger than a dangerous friend!
I picked her up gladly, all my specters vanishing. But then, as I left the house, I wondered: haunts were capable of unusual things, horrifying things. Not just spookings and frights. Golems-imitations of people. Suppose, just suppose, that while she was alone in there, a switch had been made? " Shetland said immediately-and realized he had made a mistake. "I woke in a cold sweat. Really, I was wet! And knew that I had no child. " She grimaced. "I was better looking then, and snotty. Too good for the men who offered.