Blake rested his arms along the back of the white leather couch, and regarded Orac expectantly. Sure enough, it wasn't long before Avon appeared, standing in front of him, arms folded.
"Well?" the computer tech demanded.
"Well what?" replied Blake casually. He'd known Avon's curiosity would cause him to inquire. It made a change for him to be able to string Avon along, usually it seemed to be the other way around.
"What method of risking our necks have you decided on now?" Avon elaborated.
"I was just going to ask Orac how the situation on Cygnus Delta was developing," Blake answered.
"Cygnus Delta?" interrupted Vila from behind Blake. "Is that anywhere near Cygnus Alpha? Because if it is, I don't want to go there."
"No," said Avon flatly, "it's nowhere near." Avon wondered occasionally if it was possible for Vila to be as stupid as he appeared.
Blake looked over his shoulder at Vila. "Just because it is in the same constellation when viewed from Earth, doesn't mean that they are physically close."
"I know that," Vila replied hastily.
"Zen," demanded Avon, "tell us about Cygnus Delta."
+Cygnus Delta is the only habitable planet in the Delta Cygni system.+
"We could have worked that out for ourselves," Avon said sarcastically.
Zen continued unruffled. +The planet is an agricultural world with large grain growing regions around the equator. It was first colonised three centuries ago and the population is approximately six million. The poles are too cold to support human life. Cygnus Delta is a member of the Terran Federation.+
"So Blake," Avon inquired, "what is your sudden interest in a small agricultural world?"
Blake replied with equanimity, "The grain quota set by the Federation is extremely high. There is a small but growing resistance movement there that needs our help."
Avon grimaced. "Would it be possible for you to find something more profitable to risk our lives over than - oats? Isn't there a world that has something worth having that we could..."
Blake interrupted him, "Jenna, would you set course for Cygnus Delta?"
Avon glared at Blake and walked off the flight deck without another word.
Vila watched the interchange, uncomfortable, but happy to not be caught in it. Still, he had to admit that grain didn't sound terribly interesting to him either. "Wouldn't a week on a pleasure planet be more interesting?" he said hopefully. "I've heard great things about those. Takes a month to recuperate they say, but it's worth it!"
"We'll see if one gets in our way," said Jenna, a shade acidly.
Cally broke off the transmission she had been studying and came down to join Blake. She had been checking Federation messages that Orac had intercepted and decoded, but there had been nothing of interest in the current batch. Perhaps Blake had had better luck in the ones he had been studying. "So what is the problem on Cygnus Delta?" she asked.
Blake stretched out his legs, crossed them at the ankle, and proceeded to explain. "The planet is agricultural and produces but a single crop. As a result, the people aren't independent in foodstuffs and actually rely on imports. This of course increases their dependence on the Federation. In recent years, attempts have been made to diversify by growing other crops and keeping livestock. Because of the low population density, it was impractical for the Federation to take direct action against these independent farmers. However, if things had continued, Cygnus Delta would no longer have needed the Federation, and would have tried for independence.
"The Federation found a solution with their typical efficiency. Biological warfare. Not aimed at the people, that would have been wasteful, they are needed to grow the grain after all. They aimed it against the livestock, particularly the goats and pigs. Unless some cure can be found for the rapidly spreading disease, there will be no chance of any revolution ever succeeding on Cygnus Delta.
"With Orac's ability to tap into medical and research computers, there is a fair chance that we can help by finding a cure, but first, we need to be able to obtain blood samples from infected animals - hence the journey."
Vila grinned. "I can just see Avon trying to get a blood sample from a pig. He'll really love you for this!"
Continued in Star One
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