Alan laughed and reached avidly for the steaming tray of food. He poured a little of his synthorange juice into a tiny pan for Rat, and fell to.
Rat was a native of Bellatrix VII, an Earth-size windswept world that orbited the bright star in the Orion constellation. He was a member of one of the three intelligent races that shared the planet with a small colony of Earthmen.
The Valhalla had made the long trip to Bellatrix, 215 light-years from Earth, shortly before Alan's birth. Captain Donnell had won the friendship of the little creature and had brought him back to the ship when time came for the Valhalla to return to Earth for its next assignment.
Rat had been the Captain's pet, and he had given Alan the small animal on his tenth birthday. Rat had never gotten along well with Steve, and more than once he had been the cause of jealous conflicts between Alan and his twin.