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Sam Jones

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Sam Jones is a song set in the Alliance-Union universe, written by C. J. Cherryh. On the album Finity’s End, it is performed by Leslie Fish and Catherine Cook. Between stanzas, the refrain is the line “For space is wide and good friends are too few.”

Sam is fifteen, living on Viking Station, when the narrator, captain of an unnamed ship, finds him. He calls himself a spacer, and is so eager to go that he offers to work for free, but as the narrator notes he’s grown up station-side and has no ship-useful skills. (This is a similar situation to that of Fletcher Neihardt in Finity’s End.) His stubbornness impresses the captain, who offers him a berth working alongside the ship’s engineer Kate Meecham. Kate is growing old, and her eyes are going bad, but she resents the kid’s presence; he sticks close to her and helps where he can nonetheless. Eventually, Kate accepts Sam’s help as her eyesight gets worse.

One one jump, the ship hits a rock while travelling at ¾-lightspeed, and one of the hyperspace vanes is damaged. The ship is crippled, “no way to stop and no damn thing that a rescue ship could do.” The gas and dust at that speed are scouring the hull; the captain estimates that someone in a hard suit would last no more than ten minutes working outside. Kate insists that this is the engineer’s job and says, “Die now or later; I’ll just work a little fast.”

But Kate is only able to do part of the repair before her faceplate is fogged up by the gas and dust. The captain is about to send someone to relieve her when Sam goes himself. Kate talks him through the repairs, but com goes silent before either of them gets back inside the ship. The captain waits ten minutes more, hearing nothing from them, before engaging the vanes for braking.

Our speed ebbed down, and ebbed again, as we turned for that K-class sun,
But Kate and that kid went on together on the trip they’d both begun.
Oh, half blind Kate and young Sam Jones made a hell of an engineer,
So turn down a glass for such as they, and thank God we’re sitting here.

For space is wide and good friends are too few.
Yes, space is wide and good friends are too few.

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