Inspirational music played as they moved from the terminal buildings into the ferry.
Without fuss, without pushing, they settled into relaxers and waited for the ferry to depart. Fifty-two of them took their places, the sexes about equally balanced. Their clothes were so similar in cut, and so subdued in colour and material, as to resemble a uniform; their hair, whether male or female, was trimmed to approximately the same length; their faces were all bland, even blank. They sat without restlessness. They were the elite of the system, allowed to vacation on the Classified planet of Lysenka II.
The ferry rose silently, dead on time. World Peace City, the Earth itself, shrank before them. They watched the planet dwindle, then turned and smiled circumspectly at each other. They were strangers and nobody knew who was who; even among the elite there were many power grades.
From the ferry, the passengers transferred to a gulfhopper awaiting them in a parking orbit round the Moon. As soon as the ferry dropped away, the gulfhopper established a charm-field and began its expensive cratobatics. Earth disappeared like an eyeball dropping down a drain; the sun was transformed into an icicle of light, and vanished. Time became a series of equations.
Oblivious to alarm, the tourists could now settle down and become acquainted with one another. The distance from the Solar System to the Lysenka System was 50.2 light years, in Ordinary Space terms, so passengers had forty hours on the transference from system to system in which to indulge in social intercourse or related activities.
The gulfhopper was a spacious craft, well provided with lounges, restaurants, view-chambers, an aquatics suite and private rooms. Most of the tourists, being important people, kept their importance in repair by walking about the public rooms in a dignified manner. Hostesses in blue Gulfways uniform assisted some passengers to meet their partners that Extra-System selectors had chosen for them, if they had not had time to meet before embarking at World Peace City.
One of the smiling hostesses introduced two tall people, a man and a woman, who briefly touched fingertips and then stood regarding each other. Nodding, the hostess left them to themselves.
My name is Jerezy Kordan, World Citizen 692, the male said, smiling to soften the familiarity of using only his last three numbers on first meeting. I am pleased that we are to be associated for this vacation.
The female smiled back and was just as informal. Im World Citizen 194, Millia Sygiek. And Im pleased that the selector picked you Utopianist Kordan, since I know that we are going to be compatible.
Kordan had a long serious face with thick lips which were generally pursed, and long grey eyes. He stood squarely before her, his hands hanging relaxedly by his side.
Sygiek was almost as tall as he, a woman with light brown hair and grey eyes. Her jaw was firm, her expression a little severe until she smiled. She folded her hands and held them at waist level as they talked.
We could be nothing but compatible since the computer graded us for compatibility. Compatibility is a quality we both rate as desirable, she said.