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approval." He rose, bowed, and left the room.
Nordli turned to Carey. "General, how do we proceed?"
Carey let his eyes sweep the others' faces as he thought. They were all on
Nordli's side, he saw: Du
Bellay, like himself, only because there was no other choice. How many lives
were they planning to snuff out?—innocent lives, perhaps, who may not
realize what they were doing? "The trouble, Mr.
Executor, is that the Peacekeeper forces really aren't set up for this kind of
threat."
"You've got nuclear missiles, don't you? And ships to deliver them?"
"There are two problems. First, hitting the Intruder would be extremely
difficult. A shot from the side would probably miss, alerting them as to our
intentions. A head-on shot would hit, all right, but the extremely high
magnetic fields it would have to penetrate would almost certainly incapacitate
any missile we've got. And second, there's no guarantee even a direct hit
would do any good. Just because they don't have FTL drives doesn't mean
they're primitives—only that their technology developed along different
lines. And don't forget, that ship is designed to bore through the edge of a
star at nearly lightspeed."
"There's one further problem," Dr. Roth spoke up. "Disabling or even
disintegrating it at this point wouldn't help us any. The fragments would
still hit the sun, with the same consequences."
There was a moment of silence. "Then we have to stop or deflect it." Evelyn
suggested. "We have to put something massive in its path."
Nordli looked at Carey. "General?"
Carey was doing a quick calculation in his head. "Yes, either would work.
Slowing it even slightly would sent it through a less dense region of the
photosphere. Assuming, of course, that he stays with his present course."
"What can we put in his path?" Nordli asked. "Could we tow an asteroid out
there?"
Carey shook his head. "Impossible. As I pointed out, he's far off the ecliptic
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plane. Moving an asteroid there would take months." Even as he spoke he was
mentally checking off possibilities. Tachships were far too small to be
useful, and the only heavy Peacekeeper ships in the System were too far away
from the Intruder's path. "The only chance I can see," he said slowly, "is if
there's a big private or commercial ship close enough to intercept him a good
distance from the sun. But we don't have authority to requisition nonmilitary
spacecraft."
"You do now," Nordli said grimly. "The government also guarantees
compensation."
"Thank you, sir." Carey touched an intercom button and gave Captain Mahendra
the search order.
There was a lot of traffic in mankind's home system, but the Peacekeepers'
duties included monitoring such activity, and it was only a few minutes before
Mahendra was back on the intercom. "There's only one really good choice," he
reported. "A big passenger liner, the
Origami, almost a hundred thousand tons. She's between Titan and Ceres at
present and has a eighty-four percent probability of making an intercept point
on time; seventy-nine if she drops her passengers first. One other liner and
three freighters of comparable size have probabilities of fifteen percent or
lower."
"I see," Carey said through suddenly dry lips. "Thank you, Captain. Stand by."
He looked back up at Nordli. The Executor nodded. "No choice. Have that liner
drop its passengers and get moving."
"Yes, sir." Turning to the intercom, Carey began to give the orders. He was
vaguely surprised at the self-control in his voice.

"Well, Shipmaster?" Lassarr asked.
Orofan kept his expression neutral. "I have no suggestion other than the one I
offered an aarn ago, Voyagemaster: that we change course and continue at
reduced speed."
"For six lifetimes?" Lassarr snorted. "That's unacceptable."
"It won't be that bad." Orofan consulted his calculations. "We could penetrate
the outer atmosphere of the star without causing significant damage to the
system. We'd collect enough fuel that way to shorten the trip to barely two
lifetimes."
"That's still not good enough. I have no wish to join the ancestors before our
people are safely to their new home."
"That can be arranged," Orofan said stiffly. "You and any of the
Dawnsent's crew who wished could be
put in the spare sleep tanks. If necessary, I could run the ship alone."
For a moment Orofan thought Lassarr was going to take offense at his
suggestion. But the
Voyagemaster's expression changed and he merely shrugged. "Your offer is
honorable, but impractical.
The critical factor is still the durability of the sleep tanks, and that
hasn't changed. However, I've come up with an alternative of my own." He
paused. "We could make our new colony in this system."
"Impossible," Orofan said. "We don't have the fuel to stop."
"Certainly we do. A large proportion of this spacecraft's equipment could be
done without for a short time. Converting all of that to fusion material and
reaction mass would give us all that we need, even considering that we would
overshoot and have to come back."
"No!" The exclamation burst involuntarily from Orofan. His beloved
Dawnsent broken up haphazardly and fed to a fusion drive?
"Why not?"
His emotional response, Orofan knew, wouldn't impress the other, and he
fumbled for logical reasons.
"We don't know if there's a planet here we could live on, for one thing. Even
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if there is, the natives may already be living there. We are hardly in a
position to bargain for territory."
"We are not entirely helpless, however," Lassarr said. "Our starshield's a
formidable defense, and our meteor-destroyer could be adapted to offense. Our [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]




 

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