Some boys know what they are going to do in life from the moment when they flrst think about their future. Ted knew what he was going to do: he would be an astronomer. The big telescopes were on the Moon. So he had to get to the Moon. It wasn’t as easy as he thought, he found.
‘Shark!’ Ted shouted.
A gleam of white belly and a hammer-headed flurry of thrusting bone and muscle circled ahead of them.
The suit radios were poor at the best of times, and Ted had to shout twice to get Uncle Ed’s attention.
‘Stay here!’ Ed Hook’s voice whistled back.
Ted flipped quickly away from his uncle. This was his shark. It would be the last chance of testing himself with a knife before being posted to the big observatory on the Moon. In past holidays, he had watched Uncle Ed kill dozens of marauding sharks that had slipped through the force-fields of the Inshore Farms; mostly, Ed Hook sent a homing dart from the tiny quiver of his belt. But sometimes he used a knife.
He waited tensely for the big marauder to decide to charge. Ed Hook watched. The Shark made up its mind, suddenly flipped its huge tail and charged.
Ted worked quickly and accurately. He waited, moved to avoid the massive maw, and slashed, slowly it seemed, but fast enough; and kept the knife in so that the shark’s impetus did the killing. It fell away, slowing, dead.
Ted sensed his uncle’s anger and relief as they made their way through the thick shoals of fish back to the Inshore Farms submarine. The silent undersea farm was crowded with shapes. Fish glided by, unafraid of them. They were used to Uncle Ed. It was only the sleek, deadly torpedoes from the south they feared, the sharks which slipped into the herds, slashing and destroying.
Back in the cabin of the squat submarine, Uncle Ed grinned.
‘I suppose you were ready for it, Ted. You did it well.’
Ted skinned off the tight suit. ‘It’s my last chance,’ he said. ‘I’ll get my movement orders from the Moon Service any day now.’
A green light flashed on the control panel. Someone was trying to get in touch with them.
‘Ed Hook here,’ called Uncle Ed.
‘Bring a bucket of prawns for supper,’ said Aunt Jenny. ‘Oh, and by the way, Ted’s letter’s here. Shall I open it for him? He’s been watching the mail since he came.’
Ted shook his head. He could wait until he got to the house. He had been waiting for seven years for this letter, and he wanted to open it for himself, and see the crest of the Moon Service before anyone else saw it. It had been a long time.
At first, they hadn’t been too sure about accepting him at the Astronomical Institute. Wasn’t his father a politician? A rich one at that? They had hinted that it was just a rich boy’s whim to want to dedicate himself to a life-time of studying the stars.
He proved them wrong in his first year. By the time he had graduated from the Institute, he was in the top two per cent of students who were able to apply for the most coveted posting of all: the great observatory on the Moon.
And Ted knew he would get a posting. Since he had first looked through his first tiny refracting telescope, he had known that one day he would look at the stars from the Moon – where you could see the great blaze of the Milky Way like a band of glory in the sky, and the planets were huge glowing mirrors; and Earth itself with its continents clearly outlined could be seen. And all without the curtain of Earth’s thick atmosphere to block most of the light. All real astronomy was now done on the Moon. On Earth were the administrators, and the men who analysed others’ work.
‘It means a lot to you, doesn’t it, Ted?’ said Uncle Ed as he swung the submarine towards the shore.
‘Everything,’ said Ted. ‘Since I was five years old and I first realized there were people up there, I’ve said to myself that one day I’d be there too. To see the stars.’
‘And now you’re going. I’ll miss you in the holidays, Ted. Even though you do some crazy things! Remember when you blew the mains at the power station with that weird radio telescope!’ Ed Hook roared with laughter suddenly.
‘I never did find what was wrong with it. It should have worked,’ Ted said. ‘I nearly transferred to radio after that. But optical telescopes were my first love.’
The cabin suddenly jerked as Uncle Ed disconnected the ponderous ballast tanks. He switched the engine to ‘hover’. The shingle shook and rattled underneath them, and they roared onto the beach. Ted pushed back the roof and swung down. The wet shingle crunched under his boots as he raced for the house.
The letter, he thought. At that moment he could not wait any longer. Aunt Jenny stood at the door with the envelope in her hand.
His fingers were clumsy in his excitement.
The crest of the Moon Service blazed at him from the top of the elegant paper. But Ted saw only one word: ‘regret’.
Regret. Everything else the letter had to say was nothing. It was just a consolation prize. He was the top student of A.D. 2031 in the Astronomical lnstitute’s examinations, and he could go anywhere he wished now.
Anywhere, except to the Moon.
‘Ted!’ called Uncle Ed. ‘Ted! You there?’
Ted put the letter away. He had gone quite cold. They had turned him down. He would never see beyond the confining blanket that covered the Earth. He would only see film, and hear other men’s accounts of the blaze of glory that were the stars. For him, there was the dull routine of filing reports, and assessing the importance of real astronomers’ observations.
‘What’s happened?’ asked Aunt Jenny quietly. ‘Tell me, Ted.’
‘They turned me down,’ said Ted. He still could not believe it.
‘They say why?’ asked his uncle.
Ted shook his head. The Moon Service never explained.
You either were what they thought they might want, or you weren’t. But everyone got a chance! Ted
was angry now. Everyone got a chance for Moon Service – everyone, that is, who could measure up to the fantastically high standards the Service set. If you could pass examinations year after year, survive aptitude tests, keep yourself at a sane balance through seven days a week of unremitting study at the Astronomical Institute, then you were given a chance on the Moon itself.
Even then, not everyone could stand life on the Moon.
It was a weird life, they said. Gravity of one-sixth of Earth’s made moving about altogether different. The food came from hydroponics tanks. There were only a few hundred individuals there, and most of them you never saw because they were on another part of the planet.
You lived in caves under perpetual artificial light. You were aware that at any moment the gongs of an alarm might shatter the quiet, telling you that you had seconds to reach for an emergency suit with its air supply, because a meteor had shattered the roof of the dome.
Eighty per cent of all trainees were sent back within weeks of landing. The strangeness of life on the Moon was too much for them.
Ted knew he would have made it. More than anything else, he wanted to serve the immense telescopes on the Moon which were mapping the sky for the first star-travellers.
‘It’s bad,’ said Ed Hook simply. ‘Want to talk about it?’
Ted had not been aware that Uncle Ed had been waiting for over ten minutes for a reply to his first
He shook his head, ‘I’ll fetch the bucket,’ he said. ‘I forgot the prawns.’ They had been meant for a farewell supper, he remembered – a celebration, he thought bitterly.
Later, when the initial shock had worn off, he was able to talk about it to Uncle Ed.
‘They don’t tell you why you can’t go – I’ve seen lots of trainees rejected by the Moon Service. I’m not what they’re looking for – not the right material.’
‘Don’t be hard on yourself, Ted. There may be something in your temperament you don’t know about that would show up under lunar conditions.’
Ted shook his head. ‘I know all my ratings. They were fine. I’d never have been so confident about being accepted otherwise.’
‘Will you accept a job down here – on Earth?’
‘No.’ He was quite sure about that. ‘I couldn’t take it. Not without seeing the stars, even if only for once. I could stand living the rest of my life down here if they’d only give me the chance of a few days on the Moon.’
‘Forget it,’ Uncle Ed advised. ‘There’s no outings to the Moon. No joy-rides. No excursions. Moon Service can only ship trainees, and even then they’re hardpressed for space. This sort of decision is final. You just have to live with it, Ted.’
Ted thought suddenly about Uncle Ed’s own life. He had thrown up a secure job in auto-dynamics to take this job in Inshore Farms at a tenth of the pay.
‘You didn’t,’ he said.
‘Me? I didn’t what, Ted?’
‘Live with it. You just walked out- so Dad says.’
Uncle Ed’s lean, tanned face cracked into a grin. ‘No, Ted. It wasn’t quite like that. Andy – your Dad, I mean – always said that. The truth was that this is the kind of life I should have gone in for in the first place. If I hadn’t made a complete break when I was just turned turned thirty, I’d have stayed in industry for life. I saw it just in time.’
‘That’s why I’ll have to find another job,’ Ted said slowly. ‘I can see myself in ten years’ time liking terrestrial astronomy.’
‘I could do with another man here,’ offered Uncle Ed.
Aunt Jenny smiled at him over Ed Hook’s shoulder.
It wasn’t a bad life, he thought.
‘No,’ he said. The decision came easily to him. It was like knowing he was ready to take the shark. ‘I’m going to find out why they won’t have me.’
Ted wandered through the long corridors of the Astronomical Institute. He looked at many of the photographs of early astronauts, famous rocketeers, old-time astronomers, which hung on the walls. Seven years, he thought. It had been a long preparation – for what?
‘I can’t say how sorry I am,’ the Principal, Professor Savage, told him. The thin, handsome old face looked sincere enough, thought Ted. ‘I watched your progress here, Hook, and I knew you were going to make a firstclass astronomer.’ He smiled. ‘Rather exotic holidays you always took – most of our trainees preferred something more academic. Still -‘
‘If you could give me some idea, sir,’ said Ted, repeating his appeal for the third time. It had been a gamble coming to Professor Savage. He might or he might not, tell him. The old man rambled on and on, but if Ted heard him out he might say something.
‘We don’t often do this, Hook,’ the old man said, ‘But I had hopes for you. Just a minute -‘
When he spoke briefly into the telephone, it made matters worse. He sent Ted on his way with the hope that he would come back soon to arrange his posting. But he had spoken to Hargreaves of the Medical Block, and that was where Ted was going now. Why Medical?
‘Glad to know you,’ said Hargreaves. ‘And sorry, too, in a way. I’m afraid I’ve got bad news for you, Hook. You know that the Moon Service medical examination is the most stringent ever devised?’ He went on without waiting for an answer. ‘Believe me, it is. And they’ve· turned you down on medical grounds.’
‘Me!’ said Ted incredulously. He had never felt fitter.
His ten stone of muscle and sinew had never been in better condition.
‘Heart,’ said Doctor Hargreaves sympathetically.
‘Under normal conditions, the Moon Shuttle will kill you. You couldn’t stand the acceleration to escape velocity.’
‘Heart trouble,’ said Ted. It was difficult to follow Hargreaves’ conversation, so great was the shock.
‘It takes a powerful physique to withstand normal acceleration, as you know,’ went on Hargreaves, ‘In your case, the chances are about fifty-fifty that you’d die. It’s too much of a risk. They won’t take the chance of murdering you, Hook. No-‘ he said, cutting off Ted’s flow of protestations. ‘I’ve heard it all before from men as good as yourself. Face up to it like a man. You’re earth-bound. For life.’
‘You couldn’t replace the defective part?’ said Ted, clutching at straws. Whole-heart replacements were common-place.
Hargreaves shook his head.
‘It’s the mitral valve. We could replace it, certainly, but the Moon Service would never look at you. Not with a replacement.’
How could you explain that you would take the chance – any chance, any at all, even if the odds were
ten or fifty to one against you?
‘Thanks for seeing me,’ said Ted. ‘It was good of you.’
Doctor Hargreaves watched Ted go. He had seen many like Ted. But he thought Governor Hook’s son had enough grit to face his disappointment and make the best of it.
Ted’s father looked on the bright side. That was Dad, of course – cheerful, extrovert, and simple. He saw that Ted’s training could be useful in political life. Would he like to join the State Astronautics Commission?
‘Take a month off, son. Take a year. Go and see the world! I’ll see you don’t run short of cash. Then come back and tell me what you’ve decided.’
Dad’s expression said that he would soon come to his senses and take a good job somewhere, do well at it, and grow rich like his father before him.
‘Couldn’t you pull something with the Moon Service?’ asked Ted. ‘You know all the big men. General Detweiler and Secretary Harrison were here last week. Couldn’t they do anything?’
‘Such as, son? Ship you aboard a Shuttle as a stowaway? No, Ted. No one runs away to sea any more. This is the twenty-first century, and we have to do the job we’re trained and suited for. The Moon Service people know what they’re talking about and if they say “no”, then “no” it is.’
Ted wandered back to the Astronomical Institute. He looked round the deserted corridors. He could sign on for another course. Maybe do a year in radio telescopes. There was nothing for him in optical telescopes, certainly. There was no way to the Moon.
Idly he glanced at the photographs of early astronauts. They were all there. Gagarin, the first. Earliest in a long line of competitive Russians and Americans until the French made their break-through. Then flat Mongolian faces grinned back at him, and cheerful Negroes. And one Englishman – a crazy middle-aged rocket metallurgist who had jobbed up his own weird ship and blasted off from his own back garden. He had made it, too.
It made Ted think of the shark. What was there in common between your first real shark-hunt and a long dead man’s crazy shot in a home-made rocket? Willis had bought up spares and patiently assembled them for twenty years. No one ever found out where he got his fuel. But he had done it. He had escaped from the monotony of testing samples from burnt-up satellites – and from Earth itself.
Ted grinned. Action was the link between Willis and his first shark. He went for his jets.
An hour later he was hovering over the Dump.
The Dump was just that. A fantastic jumble of machinery from the first eighty years of rocketry. It had started out as a museum, but there had been an international squabble as to who should pay for its upkeep, and soon it was abandoned. It was the dump for the scores of rocket bodies, the hundreds of engines, and the millions of obsolete spares that the great aerial grabs gently placed there. No one was interested in salvage. Manpower was too expensive. It was far cheaper to mine new ores than to break up these monsters.
Could he patch up a rocket as Willis had done? Ted gazed around the Dump.
They were all there – from the early Shuttles back to Saturn and the Dyna-Soar. The rockets of the late twentieth century were huge against the smaller, later machines. Ted was looking for a Skipstone. Skipstone was a development of the Dyna-Soar project, a rocket and aeroplane in one, which used a third of its fuel to zoom to a hundred miles above Earth. It then skipped along the atmosphere like a stone across a pool, building up its speed until it was in a flight path for a Moon shot. There had been dozens of successful launchings in Skipstone by amateurs. But the professionals took over, and Skipstone gave way to the early Shuttles. Now they were in cocoons of preservatives, waiting for a blast-off that would never come.
Ted cut his way through to the passenger capsule of a new-looking Skipstone vehicle. No one had been near it for fifty years. Even the kids had forgotten that the Dump existed.
He studied the controls. Primitive, but sufficient. The heating, respiratory and pressurizing arrangements were easy to follow. But the fuel? Had it stood the test of time? What had happened to the atomic structure of the solid fuel over the years? Was it static?
He had only to hook in a few circuits to find out.
That, and press the firing button. Then up to a hundred miles, and work out a course that would set him gently on the Moon. If he lived through the strain of G.
Ted laughed out aloud for the first time since he had read of his rejection. Blasting-off in this Skipstone was just another adolescent dream. As Dad said, no one ran away to sea any more. If he did press the firing button, the rocket would probably explode on its pad. That, or one of its scores of systems would fail. The air supply might be cut off; or the navigational system could swing him off course into the sun, or winging towards cold and distant Pluto.
Willis could do it, but it had taken him twenty years.
And he was a rocket expert. Few better, it turned out later. To make this ancient Skipstone efficient would take an army of experts working for months.
Ted ripped out the leads that could have activated the rocket. As he swung down from the stubby wings, he saw the first star in the sky. Venus: like a great beacon, they said, when you saw it from space.
He looked over the other relics of the twentieth century.
Monstrous nuclear engines with cooling systems and lead shields the size of barns …. A five-hundred-foot monster in seven stages. The industrious Japanese had thought that one up.
Thoughtfully, he poked in the air-lock of an early Shuttle. Powerful and ugly, the Shuttle looked like a carthorse of a rocket. But it had immense strength and reliability. They usually stripped all equipment, Ted thought. Anything useful. Why hadn’t the spare spacesuit been taken from the rack?
Ted took it from its corner, an idea boiling up in his mind as he saw the glowing crest of the Moon Service on the suit. It looked almost new; someone had forgotten to take out this emergency suit when stripping the ship. Laughing to himself, Ted saw a use for it. It was like deciding to take the shark all over again, with Uncle Ed grabbing for his foot.
He would get to the Moon! In spite of Dad’s well meant bumptiousness, in spite of Hargreaves’ cold, clinical discouragement; and in spite of a malfunctioning mitral valve!
The Shuttle was scheduled for departure from the Atlantic Platform at 21.23 hours. It had taken Ted nearly two hours to reach the Platform, and an hour before that to make sure that the suit was safe. He had checked it down to the last of its scores of hook-ups; suits were simple to him – survival courses at the Institute had seen to that.
The Shuttle stood pitch-black against the dying sunlight.
The last few routine checks were being completed, with technicians moving huge, quiet machines about the massive hull. Until seconds before blast-off the checks would go on. They were important to Ted’s plan. In another twenty minutes, a knife-edge of intense rainbow light would creep out from a port, and the Shuttle would creak up into the gloom of the night sky. With Ted aboard, if he could get past Security.
He watched the pleasant-looking Security men who stood about idly at the entrances. They looked decorative in their tight-fitting Moon Service uniforms. But Ted knew they could move. If only one of scores of checker beams that showed up contraband glowed, however faintly, they would move rapidly, pleasant no longer. Cranks still tried to blow up the Shuttle. Tiny nuclear bombs were smuggled in by eccentrics. Two expensive Shuttles had been lost in the thirty-odd years of their service. But there would be no more sabotage.
It made things difficult for Ted. He could only hope the uniform would carry him through. Men looked at the crest, and that was usually enough. No one could hope to make even a reasonable facsimile of the glowing symbol, whose component molecules were put together in such a way that only they could pass a man unquestioned into the base.
He would worry about disposing of enough of the Shuttle’s cargo to make up his body weight when he got aboard. He could throw out some piece of equipment that would add up to his hundred and forty pounds.
Ted took one look at what might be his last view of Earth, and dived into an automatic shop to change into the suit. He fed in coins, ordering shirts, socks, ties, anything to keep the shop busy. He changed, trembling with the skin-tight suit. A voice boomed out, and Ted whirled round.
It was only the shop thanking him for his custom.
Come again, it said hopefully. Ted grinned. Not if he could help it!
He looked straight into the eyes of the first Security man. The other looked him over professionally. A latecomer, his bored eyes said. The look told Ted that the crest that blazed on his chest had triggered off a recognition symbol somewhere deep below them, and that he had been accepted into the base.
He forced himself to hold his helmet negligently by one strap, just as the crewmen did – easily, and rather proudly. As if he did this every day. He would have stood out like a supernova if he had worn it.
He was in. No one would question him now.
He looked around the base. Now he had to lessen the weight of the Shuttle’s cargo by his own body weight, or the additional weight would show up on the big rocket’s checking system.
The big loading bays a hundred feet above him were closed. All the cargo had been shipped aboard. There was nothing he could dispose of before it was on-loaded.
Fifteen minutes to blast-off, he saw by his watch.
He rode up the lift to the crew’s hatch and walked in confidently. A senior officer looked at him hard for a moment, and Ted shivered. He flung up a salute quickly, remembering that senior officers he had seen at home were hot on discipline.
As the broad back disappeared, Ted looked round the Shuttle, frantically searching for a hiding-place and for some piece of equipment equal to his body weight that he could jettison. In another ten minutes there would be a final check on the ship’s weight, and his own small part of the ship’s bulk would show up on the instruments.
Where could he hide?
He darted down a free-fall shaft, away from the central section of the ship which was now humming with action as the crew made ready for blast-off. He hurried on, feeling the seconds slipping away from him like so many jewels.
Further into the deserted lower decks he darted.
Eight minutes! Then he saw how he could do it: he saw the Shuttle’s disaster equipment.
The ship carried scores of compact emergency escape capsules, and here they were, arranged in rows along the inner shell of the vessel. They could survive a blowup and keep a crewman alive in space for weeks. Ted could strap himself into one of them and not be noticed during the short trip to the Moon.
But his weight! How could he dispose of a hundred and forty pounds? And the weight of his suit!
Seven minutes to blast-off!
Ted looked into the tiny escape capsule. Everything was in place, waiting for emergency – then he saw it.
Oxygen! Oxygen tanks, with their highly compressed liquid oxygen!
All he had to do was to release sufficient oxygen to equal his weight – the oxygen was so cold that it would evaporate immediately on contact with the far warmer atmosphere of the ship, and its volume would escape through the still-open ports within a minute or two.
Ted acted instantly, buckling on his helmet as he turned the outlet valve to maximum. He was careful to plug into the ship’s air-supply – such a concentration of pure oxygen as was now in the capsule would kill him.
The sausages of white liquid writhed out of the capsule, vaporizing at once. Ted looked around the brightly lit scene. If anyone came along now, he could hardly escape detection.
The clamour of the five-minute alarm startled him as he carefully checked the outflow of oxygen. Hastily he cut it off as the gauges showed that the necessary weight had escaped.
When he felt the shudder of the engines, he knew he had made it. He took one quick look. round, but no one was about. Then he strapped himself down.
He waited. For death? It was the longest three minutes of his life. He waited for pain and death.
Blast-off came with a tiny, almost imperceptible, shudder.
He closed his eyes, tried to relax, tried to nerve himself against the first choking thrust of G.
This is death, his mind shrieked, but it was only the beginning. The Shuttle’s immense engines raced and strained as the vessel roared through thin air away from the heavy drag of Earth’s metallic core. It blasted on, thrusting hard into fifteen – twenty – twenty-five – thirty thousand miles an hour. Coasting speed.
Ted tried to will his heart to take it. But a sense of utter cold had gripped him with the first hard burst of acceleration, and will, strength, and spirit failed. Blackness reached for him. A red cloud burst inside his head.
He did not hear the warning clamour of the alarm that told the engineers that an unidentified passenger had plugged into the Shuttle’s air-supply. He did not know that a team of crewmen raced to his assistance when they found the uncannily ice-cold body.
He knew he was alive because he could see the rabbit-faced nurse, and hear the chinks of sound as she tidied a tray of instruments. Otherwise it could have been a dream. The odd, round-shaped room. The feeling of lightness.
She turned. ‘Awake?’ she asked.
Ted nodded. He knew he was on the Moon. In spite of them all, he had made it. Alive. How?
A pleasant-looking red-faced man bounced into the room.
‘I’m the doctor,’ he said. ‘You’re all right Ted. You need sleep right now, but I want you to know you’re safe.’ He grinned encouragingly, reminding Ted of how his father sometimes looked at him.
Ted hardly felt the injection. His last thought as he slipped into sleep was that his family would be worrying about him – Dad … Uncle Ed …
Hours later, Ted woke again. He felt fit and well.
It was the same nurse, he saw, and the same doctor.
‘You’ve caused some bother!’ the nurse chided. She was smiling, though, as if she shared some secret with the doctor.
‘My patients almost always recover! ‘ boomed the red-faced doctor. ‘I hate to think what they’re going to do with you when Security get hold of you! ‘ he continued. ‘Still, the one thing you’re afraid of can’t happen! Whatever they do to you, they can’t ship you back! Not immediately, at any rate.’
Ted looked at the jolly, concerned face of the doctor and felt tension flooding from him. He had known he might spend the rest of his life on 1he Moon; he had been ready for this. Then, for a few seconds, he thought of home. And Uncle Ed and holidays.
But he brightened suddenly. It was like the shark fight all over again – like the moment when the shark turned away, harmless, dead. Nothing could hurt him now.
‘No,’ said the doctor. ‘You’ll have to stay here a while until we decide what to do with you. I can tell you this, though: if you buckle down to it, you’ll get a chance of working here. You can’t be kept idle. Still, you came to work, didn’t you? ‘
Ted felt himself choking with elation and triumph.
‘Want to know how you came through it?’ asked the nurse.
It was simple enough, they explained. He had not replaced the oxygen tank’s controls properly. The first jolt of acceleration had turned it to ‘full’ again, and a blanket of remorselessly cold liquid oxygen had at once flooded over him. Instantly, his body temperature had dropped a score of degrees, and the rate of his heart-beat had slowed to a twentieth of normal.
For the vital seconds of acceleration, his heart had been under only a small fraction of its usual strain. And before he froze to death, the crewmen got to him.
‘So you see,’ went on the doctor, ‘you’ve started something with this refrigerated space-roving of yours. It’s always been a theoretical possibility, of course, that we can travel as you did, but no one seriously thought it was worth doing. Now you’ve done it, there’s no reason why other people with fluttery hearts can’t do the same.’ He looked at Ted speculatively. ‘You’re not Moon-bound at all. One day you will be able to go back – in the cold, naturally.’
Oddly enough, it made Ted feel happier. Calmer, too.
‘Do you know what they’re saying about you down on Earth?’ asked the nurse.
As she said it, Ted recognized the look on her face – it was admiration! She admired him. And she had said down. Down there!
‘What?’ asked Ted. He pitied all Earth-bound people now.
‘”The age of adventure isn’t dead”,’ snorted the doctor; ‘Hello,’ he said, looking over his shoulder, ‘trouble!’
Two big Security men had come into the ward.
‘Chin up!’ whispered the nurse.
It doesn’t matter, Ted told himself. Today he would see the stars.