"Only way to be sure," Lang said. Well, yeah..." Jae said. As they pulled away at impulse speed from the lonely wreck of the pseudo-attack ship that hid a portal to dimensions uncharted, a pair of sonic charges was left attached to it. Lang and Jae, eyes red from sleepiness, watched it drift away. It looked small and helpless in the great vast expanse. Once the Vulture was clear, Lang said "hit it," and Jae flipped the last of three red switches. The sonic charges erupted and cut through the prize and space around it like a pair of expanding saw blades. "We don't get paid now," Jae said. "Wouldn't be right to," Lang said. "I know." *** The Admiralty was not angry. "You did the right thing," said Captain Goretz, a bluff, bullet-headed man who had lost an eye in some legendary early scrap with the buzzdroids. "There's a time to balance opportunity with a healthy respect for the unknown. The truth is, we've been tangling with these creatures a long time, and neither side is growing tired of it yet. Which means we're probably just sniping at each other's edges. So long as we can reproduce attack ships, and they can reproduce droids, neither side is hurting. If we were suddenly to understand them, or us them, things might get catastrophic. So we'll take all you've told us under advisement. It all gets filed away." The Admiralty did take the containment unit of the dust. "Top men and all that cal," said Goretz, with a wry smirk. In appreciation of this find, and as compensation for the loss of an expected prize, the Admiralty authorized a one-time hush-hush payment to Lang and Jae. It was well in excess of what they might have made from the attack ship. Lang did some quick calculating. He could cash out and retire if he wanted. Lang took the money. Jae did not. The Union concurred with that assessment. They politely recommended that both Lang and Jae divest their shares of the Pricey Vulture and conclude their spacing careers. The Union expressed willingness to vote both of them a pension if they would agree to this. Lang took the money. Jae did not. "They recommended," said Jae, as they had a final dinner before going their separate ways. "They didn't insist on it. I'm not ready to hang my spurs up, Skipper. I'm still young. I can still make a real fortune." She had taken a portion of the Admiralty money and her share of the Vulture and bought a first officer's share of the Galaxian, a cruise starship that made tourist runs for core surfers. "It'll be profitable, and quiet," she said, "and I always wanted to do a little core surfing. Sounds like a good way to pass the time when I am done." "Smart," said Lang. "I try."