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Jasper's problem was that he was a good musician. Not a great one, mind you, just a good one. He could easily get a job on any planet playing in bars, but he never was quite good enough to get the gigs that really paid well enough for a decent living. And, of course, the bars he worked in always seemed to be in the entertainment areas with the nightlife that tempted him to spend his small paychecks all at once.

He had managed to save up enough to buy a standby ticket for Earth, and it was stuffed in the case of his zolaphone. But there had not been any Earthbound flights with room for standby for the past month, and he didn't have enough money for a real ticket. And the bored, surly ticket agent had just told him the chesella harvest season was winding down, and with workers shipping out, no standbys were likely to be available for another three months.

So, standing at the entrance to the spaceport, he looked east at the brightly shining nightlife (such as it was) of Elgin, the planet's only city, then west at the darkness of the plantations and the wild planet beyond. And he realized if he didn't start saving his money soon to buy a real ticket, he could end up retiring on this planet. That's when self discipline claimed him and he turned his back on the nightlife and wandered off into the darkness, reaching the edge of the town limits in a matter of minutes.

The chesella plantations extended only a few miles beyond the edge of town, crisscrossed by dozens of dirt roads. Jasper's half-formed and ill-considered plan was to wander those dirt roads until he was too tired to be interested in drinking, then go home and go to bed. Accordingly, he followed a moonlit dirt road into the oblivion of the plantations.

As he walked out into the night, his mind began to clear, as though the small town he left behind had provided its own intoxication and he had been under the influence of it since he had arrived. In fact, Jasper had never been out into the plantations -- Elginia's reason for settlement -- and knew little about them. Knowing nothing of the planet's wilder side, he had no fear and so wandered cheerfully along carrying his zolaphone case slung over his shoulder. Tunes from a dozen planets, including a few he had written himself, floated through his head, and he softly sang a few as he walked.

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