This story takes place on Planet K21228 in Kappa Sector as it moves from Planet First to Colony Ten stage. Colonel Riak Torrek commands the hand over ceremony of what is to be his last command before retirement while reminiscing over past adventures and loved ones.
A priority in ensuring a smooth ceremony is ensuring all occurring rain clouds are eliminated. Back when the hand over ceremony happened on Thetis there was a torrential rainstorm, then the chimera revealed themselves and the Thetis chaos years happened. Since that day it is always ensured that there is not a single drop of rain at hand-overs. Major Drago Tell Dramis and his team are assigned with cloud spotting and seeding.
Looking at old photographs, Riak remembers the two people dearest to him: His old love he met back in Academy 60 years ago, Jarra Tell Morrath, and his old rival, a straight-a student who kept mockingly calling him farm boy, who he later grew very fond of.
He calls General Kpossi at Colony Ten Command to begin the one-hour countdown to the hand-over ceremony. She tries to convince him to not retire, praising his outstanding leadership and people management skills and his patience and ability to pick the right people for any position.
He declines, arguing many younger, healthier officers have those skills and abilities (he is almost 80 years old) and that he has achieved more in his career than he ever expected, deserved or wanted. She disagrees, stressing that when she was under his command without his leadership she would not have overcome her bereavement. This does not sway him.
Riak is startled by a young cadet on field assignment from Academy dismantling his door, just as the instructions on his lookup say. Obviously the cadet got erroneous orders. He immediately recognizes that this embarrassing incident is the straw that broke the camel's back and the cadet is now set on leaving the Military.
The cadet, Helden Keusink, is a sector recruit from Gamma sector, just like Riak was himself. The Colonel tells him he came from Tethys, a backwater farming planet only known for growing carrots. How he had trouble portalling to Academy on his first time off-world because he did not realise Academy was not located on an Alpha sector planet, but a whole separate planet.
How he was bottom of the sector recruit class and became a cadet only because recruits could not fail basic training. As a cadet, Riak was now put in a class of mostly cadets from Military families where anyone immediately knew he was a sector recruit just from his accent, and from his lack of Military customs as well.
At the end of his first week, Riak wanted to quit because he was, again, bottom of his class. Jarra and the straight-a student intercepted him on his way to the instructor's office and locked him in a room, demanding he change his mind lest he would get the whole class into trouble. They made him agree to stay for another month.
Helden shares with the Colonel his frustration at getting special treatment from his classmates and instructors. Riak explains it would be unfair to hold sector recruit cadets to the same standards as cadets from military families since the latter have a huge head start on knowledge and experience from early childhood.
To change Helden's mind, Riak tells him an embarrassing story from when he was a Captain. Jarra, Riak and straight a student were on a sample collection mission when their Field Command sled was attacked by local bison-like animals. They had to call in reinforcements to drive of the bisons.
In the chaos of that situation, he had proposed to Jarra and the straight a student. Or the other way around. The two Betans had been proposing a triad marriage to him for a while, but as a Gamman, he'd rather two with Jarra. On this day Riak accepted that it would not be Jarra and him but the three of them.
When the three of them had been patched up at the base, they got powered and set of distress flares. While being inside a dome. Luckily no other building caught fire, but their commanding officer was furious. Riak argues everyone has embarrassing moments like this.
The colonel explains that sector recruits are vital for the Military's most important job: maintaining the peace between the worlds of humanity. Since most Military officers come from Military families, they are ill-equipped to keep the peace between civilian societies they have never been a part of: "Sector military are the glue that holds everything together."
Helden, Riak says, is there not only to learn but also to teach his fellow cadets and even the instructors about civilian life and current attitudes on his home world. His civilian background is valuably for the Military, and therefore Riak urges him to give himself more time before quitting the Military.