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Following is the beginning of a chapter of my presumptive novel “Pellus”, about an expedition to an asteroid cluster. The cluster is impossibly dense. Some individual asteroids are mere meters from others. The astronauts are there partially to find out how this can be. One of their initial efforts is to map the cluster.
Maps hadn’t been made this way in five hundred years. Usually, they were based on aerial photographs. Most of the asteroids of Pellus were inside the cluster, though, and lacked clear airspace from which to film them, so they had to be mapped from ground level only.
On the crew were two cartographers and six surveyors. Every day, the cartographers went out with the surveyors to see firsthand what the surveyors were dealing with.
Each surveyor worked with a two-avatar crew, enhanced by either a cartographer or one of his avatars. When questions arose, the cartographer would be aware of all the intricacies involved and could resolve any issue immediately.
On most days, they were also accompanied by a rat-hostler from the lab. Generally, this was an assistant who regularly worked with the rodents and was familiar with and to them. The lead rat, when used, carried a lamp and a camera fitted with a rangefinder and laser yardstick, and returned measurements along with the pictures. This whole assembly weighed less than two hundred grams, was encased in a housing half the thickness of a wristwatch strap, secured to the rat’s head by (as it happened) a wristwatch strap running under the rat’s jaw.

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