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Wryan pulled the chair closer to the bed. "Sammis... who told you that you
were invulnerable?"
I didn't want to answer that one.
"Walking into Llordian ..." she didn't finish her statement.
"All right... was stupid." I took another sip of Sustain with a shaking hand.
"Should I have dived in and recorded and disappeared?"
"Why not?" Wryan's voice was calm.
"How about the witches of Eastron?"
"It's a different time and a different place." She looked at me critically.
"You should be dead, you know?"
I didn't ask why, not wanting to move much.
"Your wounds weren't survivable, according to Dr. Dyrell. '' She stood up and
pointed a finger at me. "But you're still not invulnerable."
I yawned. All of a sudden, I felt tired.
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"I'll talk to you later."
As I recovered over the next ten-day, I discovered that the remaining farmers
had nearly leveled Llordian, but not before the last remnant of the townies
had attacked and leveled a dozen more farms empty because the farmers had
retreated to one they had made into a stronghold.
The townies attacked, and three quarters of them were wiped out as were nearly
half the farmers and most of the stored crops and seed grain.
At Felshtar, nearly the same thing had happened, because the farmers, hearing
what had happened at Llordian, waited until the next townie attack. Then they
burned the entire town, while the townies were out burning every farmhouse
they could reach.
Jeriyk made some tapes of the destruction.
Algem, another town near Esterly, complained about the ConFed levies. Odin
Thor showed them the tapes, then sent a handful of townies and farmers by
steamer to Llordian. They didn't even ask for an election. They did ask, after
talking with Wryan, for a committee of townies and farmers, under ConFed
supervision, to verify townie food needs and farmer supplies.
By the time I was well enough to leave the infirmary, I had figured out what
had to be done, if we were to avoid selfdestruction and get back on the road
to dealing with the Frost Giants.
Wryan didn't encourage me or oppose me. What she said was, "If you think so,
go ahead and persuade everyone."
I didn't have to persuade everyone, just Odin Thor.
The sunshine that had promised an early spring vanished as we walked into the
Colonel-General's office. My shoulder still twinged when I stretched too far,
but the redness of the scars had already begun to fade.
Odin Thor stood behind his desk and peered at me, and I still didn't know
whether Wryan was really behind me or not. At least, she'd agreed to come.
"The divers can't stay here any longer."
"Why not. Trooper Sammis?"
"First, because it makes your troopers uneasy. Second, because they need to
adjust to the real world. And third, because this base isn't suited to
rebuilding the future." My voice almost squeaked, but I got it all out.
Wryan said nothing, just stood there with a faint smile on her face.
Odin Thor smiled even more broadly. "My troopers will do what I say."
"Not necessarily."
"Oh... ?"
"Not if I tell them your big secret that you're a diver yourself."
For once, the Colonel-General looked surprised. He opened his mouth, then shut
it. Then he just sat there.
"You, madame." he finally said, "Do you believe such an absurdity?"
"Colonel," she said with a wry twist to her lips, "what I believe is not the
issue. Is it?"
Odin Thor glanced toward the closed door, then looked at me. "What could you
possibly gain by making such a statement?"
"Look," I said, hoping the words came out the way I had rehearsed them. "What
happened at Llordian and Felshtar showed that right now people only respect
force. They also try to destroy what they don't want to understand. I'm a
diver. I'm not a trooper, and I never will be again."
Odin Thor's hairy eyebrows furrowed.
"Do you really think you could keep me from destroying most of your forces if
I had to?"
"You wouldn't."
"Not unless you forced him," added Wryan.
Odin Thor stepped back. "Let's start this over." He resumed the false jollity.
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"Why don't you just explain this whole wonderful scheme of yours?"
"It's not wonderful. It's designed for survival." I cleared my throat. "It's
simple when you think about it. From the divers' viewpoint, they have to
sleep, and get rest. If the ConFeds are three buildings away, some of the
divers are always vulnerable. Plus, several of them have had rather unpleasant
prior experiences with ConFeds.
"Second, the divers are still living in the past. They still look at what
they're doing as a research project. They need to become more self-reliant, [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]


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