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held fourteen ships; nearly half of these would be armed. Well, this caper
wasn't depending on muscle, anyway. Because if it did, Tregare was in deeper
than he could handle.
It was about time to see how Frei Relliger could land a ship, so Tregare
assigned him the job and rode sidebar for him. The new Third Hat seemed a
little twitchy when the ship began plowing air, but he brought it down
steadily and met the landing circle with only the slightest of jars. Seeing
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the man's apprehensive look, Tregare said, "Good sitdown, Frei. It buys you a
drink. " And as soon as he saw the log brought up to date, he took Relliger to
captains digs and paid off
When he went groundside, Tregare took along Hain Deverel and two other
ratings, all briefed on the "mutiny" story and all, of course, in suits. In
the airlock they waited while nozzles installed by Junior Lees people fogged
the chamber with aerosol mist. Then the outer hatch opened, and using a hose
running up the ramp from a tanker car, spacesuited UET personnel
gave men and airlock another spraying. It was all going to be a big nuisance,
Tregare thought
but the inconvenience and its supposed cause should distract UETs attention
from other matters.
So the four of them left the ship. The suited groundside squad returned to
their vehicle, leaving the hose in place. Tregares group was beckoned to a
large open groundcar. Its driver and its one passenger who wore captains
insignia were not spacesuited. Tregare thought they looked a little nervous.
Well, that wasn't such a bad idea....
Looking a little sheepish, too, the other captain reached to shake Tregare's
gauntleted hand with his own bare one. "Welcome to Stronghold, captain. I'm
Jase Hogarth, adjutant to Admiral
Saldeen. " He didn't introduce the driver, a youngish woman who wore Chief
ratings stripes and a sandpaper haircut, but Bran did name his own people.
Then they got into the car, moved off toward the nearest buildings, and
Hogarth began pointing out the sights of the place.
To the left, "That big grey pillbox, it's the powerhouse. Most of the
installation underground, of course, to save on shielding for the fusion
cycle. Only fourteen years old, the plant is.
Probably obsolete on Earth, though, by now. " Bran mumbled something
noncommittal; what he knew about power research on Earth he could stick in one
ear.
They skirted the rest of the landing area, passing through shadows cast by the
tall ships.
Strongholds sun, a fierce actinic dot so distant that Strongholds year made
fifteen of Earth's, had risen less than halfway from horizon to zenith. To one
side Hogarth noted the communications complex; its growth of antennae, in all
shapes from spidery to disclike, made his identification redundant. Bran made
approving comment anyway it didn't cost him.
Up ahead, then, minimally sheltered by foothills beyond, stood the
Headquarters complex, officer and civilian quarters, troop barracks the one
with the flagrant display of defense weaponry had to be the Committee Police
contingent, but Tregare didn't state his deduction out loud. Instead he paid
attention while Hogarth indicated the locations of other facilities: the
warehouses and related supply functions, the fuel refinery sited well away
from the main area, the storage tanks, main reservoir, crop lands off to the
far side where Tregare couldn't really see them from here.
All very interesting
 because riding in this groundcar, not yet twenty minutes on this world,
Tregare was getting himself one hell of an idea for future reference!
Peace take me, it can be done!
Admiral Saldeen was the far side of middle age, but his voice and movements
showed vigor.
Coming around from behind his desk, to shake hands, he grinned. "Glad to have
you here, captain. Tregare, is it? Seems a shame, your having to wear that
suit, but plagues nothing to fool with. Now your report, sir?"
Deverel and the other two ratings were cooling heels in an outer room. They,
and Tregare also, had been checked for weapons; no one entered the admirals
presence armed, except his personal bodyguard. Naturally Tregare and his group
had brought no overt handweapons.
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Unarmed, though, they were not. Some of their suits' "air" tanks contained
other substances, such as cough smoke and puke gas. Not that Tregare expected
to need any of that stuff, but having it at hand made him feel little more
confident.
a
Now, handshake done with and both men seated, Bran answered, "My summary log
is already sent into your computer files, sir. And that's about all the report
I have. Actually, Admiral
Saldeen, I'm here to get your report. " Before the admiral could interrupt,
Bran said, "Overall estimate of probabilities of Shrakken activity, for one
thing. Morale situation: improving or deteriorating, here where we "
We.
That's important to say. " where we can only wait and watch. And that's
another thing. " He paused.
Saldeen frowned, then said, "What is? Explain, captain. " "As you'll see by
our log, my mission has an option. In any case I receive your full report and
return it to Earth as soon as possible. " He tried to look apologetic.
"I'm not being pushy, sir, but my orders came from the [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]




 

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