The Ballad of Beta-2

by Samuel R. Delany
Release date: 1965
Type: speculative fiction
Genres: science fiction

Centuries ago, the Star Folk had left Earth on twelve spaceships on a generations-long mission to colonize the distant stars. Ten of the ships had reached thier destination. Two had failed – and nobody, in the hundreds of years since the disaster, had the slightest inkling of what had happened.

Joneny, a student of galactic anthropology, was assigned the problem. It had seemed routine to him. Just some faster-than-light travel to the two wrecked ships, a bit of poking around and then writing up his findings.

But he was ill-prepared for what he found in space at the site of the two ancient worlds. One, the Sigma-9, was not subject to the laws of time-stasis (the only exception he knew of), and it was covered entirely with a mysterious green fire that shimmered so much that it seemed alive. And the other ship, the Beta-2, was nowhere to be seen.

(updated 2010-09-07)

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