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 Why don t you ask them?
 Funny fellow! When do I have the opportunity?
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 I know the feeling!
Whatever tension had existed between them dissipated at this exchange. They
traveled on in the murk, Kai silent in deference to the concentration Varian
required to fly in such conditions. They had been airborne for over an hour
when the mist began to disperse.
 Kai, why wouldn t Tor be here?
 That has puzzled me. Especially since Tor took the trouble to rouse the Ryxi
and get Godheir down here to help us.
 Isn t it unusual for so many Thek to gather?
 Highly. I ve never heard of it before. I wonder if Commander Sassinak would
give me a little time on the cruiser s memory banks.
Varian grinned to herself.  She seems to wish to cooperate in anyway she can.
Oh, turn that thing off,
Varian added, for they were having to raise their voices to be heard above the
telltagger. Kai flicked it off mid blip.
Just then they emerged from the mist into a brilliantly clear sunlit band,
over tree-dotted plains; not too far from their original site. Varian craned
her neck and saw the three escort giffs emerge from the fog, the sun gilding
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their fur.
 Why would Sassinak want us at a meeting?
 I could think of half a hundred reasons.
 Maybe she s had a report about the ARCT-10 that she won t commit to a
Varian shot her companion a quick look but his face gave away no internal
emotions. The fate of the
ARCT-10 would be of primary importance to Kai: his family had been ship-bred
for generations. The
ARCT-10 was his home far more than any planet had ever been hers.
 Could be, she replied noncommittally. To dismiss the idea out of hand would
be unkind, no matter how she wished to reassure Kai.  Sassiness not the sort
to sugar-coat a pill 
 And she d be aware of the morale factor for most of us.
 Kai, how long does an update take to reach a cruiser this far from a sector
Kai s breath hissed as he inhaled and then he gave her a slightly sheepish
grin.  Not by this morning if the first asking was yesterday.
 And as Captain Godheir said, he d ve heard something if the ARCT-10 was known
to be lost.
 Scant reassurances I know, but a time when no news can be good news. Say, I
haven t had a chance to tell you, but Sassinak is Lunzie s
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 That was Sassiness parting remark to me yesterday. Took me the entire flight
back to get over the shock. To cushion the shock she sent Lunzie a bottle of
Sverulan brandy. Varian gave Kai a very gentle nudge in the ribs.  Now, I
know you don t appreciate planetary brews, but this stuff is gorgeous. Get on
Lunzie s good side and she might just give you a sip if she hasn t already
finished the bottle on the sly.
No, she couldn t have, no one could drink that much Sverulan brandy and
function the next day!
 I just can t imagine Lunzie as a mother.
 I can. She mothers us in her fashion. It s the ancestor part that stuns me.
That original child is probably long since dead, and the next four generations
as well, and here is Lunzie, motoring along in fine shape.
And younger than Sassinak.
 Ship-breds like me don t usually run into this sort of anomaly.
 Ireta s full of them. All kinds, why not a human paradox! I wonder if Lunzie
will ever tell us how long she s cold-slept. One thing, it hasn t affected her
wits at all.
The patch of clear sky abruptly gave way to a fast-moving heavy squall and
managing the sled took all
Varian s attention. They rode it out and the weather cleared to lowering
clouds scudding across the sky just as they reached the plateau, so Kai had a
good view of the area. Varian came in above the grid so that Kai got the full
effect of the two space vehicles, the smaller one, lean and dangerous, the
other gross and brooding. From that vantage, Kai could also see the
settlement, the foundry, and the unoccupied length of the grid.
 They meant to have more than one transport land here, didn t they?
 It would appear so, she replied.  Krims! Aygar took Sassinak at her word.
She pointed to the three sleds parked at the edge of the settlement and the
people busy loading them.  They aren t wasting any time. I wonder where
they re going.
Kai scowled.  They ve been given transport?
 They re just as entitled to replacement equipment as we are 
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 Mutineers may not profit 
 Only Tanegli qualifies as a mutineer 
 Those people are accessories to a conspiracy against FSP. Kai pointed
agitatedly at the transport vessel.
 Yes, they are. They are the real criminals, Kai, not Aygar and his group.
 I don t understand your reasoning, Varian. Kai s face was strained.  How can
you possibly take their side?
 I m not taking their side, Kai, but I can t help respecting people who ve
managed to survive Ireta and achieve that grid! She banked the sled to laid
it close to the open port of the Zaid-Dayan.  If only the
ARCT had stripped the beacon, or kept its schedule with us.
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 If , Kai said contemptuously.
 I d cheerfully settle for a lousy  when , when we get you operational again.
When we find out what the
Thek are doing. When we find out what the tribunal thinks of all this ...
They landed and very cautiously Kai eased himself out of the sled. Varian made
a show of checking the records in her shoulder bag. She couldn t watch the
once agile, active young man reduced to the slow motion of the invalid. Then
she picked up the container with the fringe samples Lunzie had frozen.
They were met at the portal by a very dark-skinned officer, lean and bouncy.
This one wore the rank device of a lieutenant commander and the fourragere of
an adjutant. He gave them a white-toothed smile before gesturing urgently over
his shoulder for someone to hurry up. [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]


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