A Special Extra Christmas
by Eric James Stone
Listen to the audio version
Drawn Sword of Allah exited the exploratory wormhole at 11:52 Universal Mecca Time on 9
Jumada Al-Thani 4494 AH. Intissar Majid entered this fact in her journal using longhand Arabic
script. Khalid, the ship's artificial jinni, doubtless had already stored much more detailed
information in his memory, but Intissar liked having a record of her own.
"I have pulsar-calculated our position," Khalid said. "The nearby star had a small Confederation-era colony, Summerfair, but there's been no recorded contact in over eight hundred years. I'm not
picking up any broadcast traffic, so it could be another world that died after the wormhole
network collapsed. We could claim it for the Caliphate."
"Or they have regressed," she said. In the five years of surveying she and Khalid had done since
being mustered out at the end of the war, she had learned that regression was the more likely
case. Without access to interstellar trade, a colony might lack the tech base to maintain its
existing technology, but unless the planet was on the extremes of the habitable range, humans
tended to find a way to survive. "In which case, we shall offer them the choice to accept or
decline the protection of the Caliphate."
"I've found the planet," Khalid said. "Range twenty-seven million kilometers." A hologram
shimmered into being: a blue and white world partially obscuring a brilliant white moon. "It
seems you are right: there is a town with active illumination visible on optics." An inset picture
of tiny dots of light in a somewhat grid-like pattern appeared, with lines tracing back to the
source position on the night side of the planet. "I'm firing a probe to do a close-in pass for a better
view. It should be in position by the time the town moves into daylight."
"Still no radio?" Intissar asked.
"Then we'll have to land to make contact," she said. "How long before we can do that?"
"Our relative velocity is too high to go directly, so we can do a flyby in a couple of days, before
coming back to land. We can do it in five days--three if we max out the inertials, insha'Allah."
Intissar smiled at Khalid's desire to push himself to his limits. The decommissioned single-crewed fighter had been stripped of weapons after the last war, but still had military-grade
engines. "No rush."
"Then I will set our course for the colony after dhuhr prayers. I am now pointing us toward