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Brecs was not a tall man by anybody's standards, but even he towered over the tiny wrinkled figure standing in the dark interior of the stone building.  The stories he had heard said that the Master was over one hundred and twenty years old; Brecs found himself reassessing his initial doubts on that score now that he was face to face with the man himself.  It had to be one of the more unusual contracts he had ever taken on, in terms of clientele at least - the exception being that one taxidermist club who still haunted his dreams.  But their money spent just like anyone else's, and they were offering an awful lot of it; just as well, as he would have to hire a ship substantially larger than his Verkenner if he was going to transport everything they wanted.  The newly-released Teutonia Shipyards' Atlas should do the trick; it was the size of a village.

"So, Mr Brecs, you think you might have a destination for us?" the old man was as quiet or more so than Brecs had expected given his size.  It was difficult to hear him even in the reverential silence of the Temple.

"It's just Brecs," he corrected habitually, "and yes I think I know just the place.  The Fraxinus system has only just been opened up to hyperspace traffic, and the survey data I was able to get hold of suggests that there is a suitable moon orbiting one of the inner planets."

"This planet, it is spoken for?"

"There are a few parties interested in setting up colonies, but nobody's been confirmed yet."

"Need I remind you that one of our most important requirements was to be located as far from civilisation as is possible?  We do not wish to be disturbed in our new home."  His tone was kind and gentle, but Brecs did not mistake that for pliability on the issues.  The brief had been quiet clear.

"Not to worry about that, sir.  At the moment only one corporation has offered to cover the settlement of that particular planet; there's another, richer in resources and closer to the star which is more suited to colonisation so that's where all the action is.  As for distance from civilisation, this is as good as it gets.  Four jumps from Sol is as far as anybody's traveled so far, in any direction.  Sure, we'll get farther as the years go by, but my understanding was that you wanted to relocate sooner rather than later.  Right?"

The Temple Master seemed to nod, though it was hard to discern in the darkness.  "That is indeed the case.  Civilisation has spread too far into our lands for us to abide here for much longer.  If there is a world out there that will not be touched by human greed for many years yet, then we should settle there as soon as we may."

"That's what I thought.  Now, I'll obviously need to go conduct a few surveys of my own to make certain the moon we're looking at is up to spec before we ship everything out there.  If all goes well I'll have all the data you need within two weeks, and I'll transmit it back to you here."  He hesitated.  "Um, you do have a UNet terminal here, don't you?"  He wasn't certain, but he thought he detected a smile form amid the Master's wrinkled visage.

"For this very endeavour, we have tolerated the presence of technology within our grounds for the first time.  When we are finally settled in our new home, we shall dispose of it and return to our modest existence.  Sometimes certain sacrifices are worth making, and we do not think ourselves so weak that the mere temporary presence of a computer will poison our minds.  After all, we are to be confined to a very large piece of technology for some time during the journey to our new home, are we not?"

"A very good point" Brecs conceded, relieved that they seemed unlikely to complain overmuch about being confined to a freighter for the better part of a month.  "In that case, the sooner I set off the better.  You'll hear from me once I've finished my surveys.  I hope this moon turns out to be suitable for your needs."

"Thank you.  We shall await your transmission.  May your journey be fruitful."

Brecs started toward the archway leading out to the courtyard, but returned to face the Temple Master again, and gave an awkward, self-conscious bow.  No matter how long he thought about it in the years to come, he would never quite understand what made him do that.
The earliest piece of fiction in the Unity Chronicles canon, this is set early-on in the times of space colonisation - many years (something in the order of decades if not centuries) before the Great Alien War which leads to the formation of the Unity government.

This tale is just a small scene occurring during the relocation of a sect of monks from East Asia to their new home on a forest moon of Xinmuchang, the secondary planet of the Fraxinus system.
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February 26, 2009
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