Книга Komarr. Содержание - CHAPTER ONE
Vorsoisson hesitated. "I'm not sure it does. Except to draw ImpSec down on it and burst the bubble. After all, he quit days before he died."
"Soudha said he quit. Soudha, according to you, is a proven liar and data artist. Could Radovas have, say, threatened to expose Soudha and been murdered to assure his silence?"
"But Radovas was in on it. For years. I mean, all the technical people had to know. They couldn't not know they weren't doing the work the reports said."
"Mm, that may depend on how much of an artistic genius Soudha was, arranging his reports." Soudha's own personnel certainly suggested that he was neither stupid nor second-rate. Might he have cooked those records as well? Oh, God. This means I'm not going to be able to trust any data off any console in the whole damned department. And he'd wasted hours today, decanting comconsoles. "Radovas might have had change of heart."
"I don't know," said Vorsoisson plaintively. His glance flicked aside to Miles. "I want you to remember, I found this. I turned him in. Just as soon as I was sure." His repeated insistence on that last point hinted broadly to Miles's ear that his knowledge of this fascinating piece of peculation predated his assurance by a noticeable margin. Had Soudha's bribe been not just offered, but accepted? Till the bubble burst. Was Miles witnessing an outbreak of patriotic duty on Vorsoisson's part, or an unseemly rush to get Soudha and Company before they got him?
"I'll remember," Miles said neutrally. Belatedly, it occurred to him that going off alone in the night with Vorsoisson to some deserted outpost, without even pausing to inform Tuomonen, might not be the brightest thing he'd ever done. Still, he doubted Vorsoisson would be nearly this forthcoming in the ImpSec captain's presence. It might be as well not to be too blunt with Vorsoisson about his chances of slithering out of this mess till they were safely back in Serifosa, preferably in the presence of Tuomonen and a couple of nice big ImpSec goons. Miles's stunner was a reassuring lump in his pocket. He would check in with Tuomonen via his wrist comm link as soon as he could arrange a quiet moment out of Vorsoisson's earshot.
"And tell Kat," Vorsoisson added.
Huh? What had Madame Vorsoisson to do with any of this? "Let's see this evidence of yours, then talk about it."
"What you'll mainly see is an absence of evidence, my lord," said Vorsoisson. "A great empty facility . . . there."
Vorsoisson banked the lightflyer, and they began to descend toward the Waste Heat experiment station. It was well lit with plenty of outdoor floodlamps, switched on automatically at dusk Miles presumed, and in high contrast to the surrounding dark. As they drew closer, Miles saw that its parking lot was not deserted; half a dozen lightflyers and aircars clustered in the landing circles. Windows glowed warmly here and there in the small office building, and more lights snaked through the airsealed tubes between sections. There were two big lift vans, one backing now into an opened loading bay in the large windowless engineering building.
"It looks pretty busy to me," said Miles. "For a hollow shell."
"I don't understand," said Vorsoisson.
Vegetation which actually stood higher than Miles's ankle struggled successfully against the cold here, but it was not quite abundant enough to conceal the lightflyer. Miles almost told Vorsoisson to douse the flyer's lights and bring them down out of sight over a small rise, despite the hike back it would entail. But Vorsoisson was already dropping toward an empty landing circle in the parking lot. He landed and killed the engine, and stared uncertainly toward the facility.
"Maybe . . . maybe you had better stay out of sight, at first," said Vorsoisson in worry. "They shouldn't mind me."
He was apparently unconscious of the world of self-revelation in this simple statement. They both adjusted their breath masks, and Vorsoisson popped the canopy. The chill night air licked Miles's exposed skin, above his breath mask, and prickled in his scalp. He dug his hands into his pockets as if to warm them, touched his stunner briefly, and followed the Administrator, a little behind him. Staying out of sight was one thing; letting Vorsoisson out of his sight was another.
"Try looking in the Engineering building first," Miles called, his voice muffled by his mask. "See if we can get a look at what's going on before you make contact with the en—er, try to speak to anyone."
Vorsoisson veered toward the loading bay's vehicle lock. Miles wondered if there was a chance anyone glancing out in the uncertain lighting might mistake him at first for Nikolai. The combination of Vorsoisson's dramatic mystery and his own natural paranoia was making him twitchy indeed, despite a better part of his mind that calculated high odds on a harmless scenario involving Vorsoisson being wildly mistaken.
They entered the pedestrian lock into the loading dock and cycled through. The pressure differential in his ears was slight. Miles kept his breath mask up temporarily as they rounded the parked lift van. He would call Tuomonen as soon as he ditched—
Miles skidded to a halt a moment too late to avoid being spotted in turn by the couple who stood quietly next to a float-pallet loaded with machinery. The woman, who had the pallet's control lead in her hand as she maneuvered the silently hovering load into the van, was Madame Radovas. The man was Administrator Soudha. They both looked up in shock at their unexpected visitors.
Miles was torn for a moment between whacking his wrist-comm's screamer circuit or going for his stunner; but at Soudha's sudden movement toward his own vest Miles's combat reflexes took over, and his hand dove for his pocket. Vorsoisson half-turned, his mouth round with astonishment and the beginning of some warning cry. Miles would have thought I've just been led into ambush by that idiot, except that Vorsoisson was clearly much more surprised than he was.
Soudha managed to get his stunner out and pointed a half second before Miles did. Oh, shit, I never asked Dr. Chenko what a stunner blast would do to my seizure stimulator— the stunner beam took him full in the face. His head snapped back in an agony that was mercifully brief. He was unconscious before he hit the concrete floor.
Miles woke with a stunner migraine pinwheeling behind his eyes, metallic splinters of pure pain seemingly stuck quivering in his brain from his frontal lobes to his spinal column. He closed his eyes immediately against the too-bright glare of lights. He was nauseated to the point of vomiting. The realization immediately following, that he was still wearing his breath mask, caused his spacer's training to cut in; he swallowed and breathed deeply, carefully, and the dangerous moment passed. He was cold, and held upright in an awkward position by restraints pulling on his arms. He opened his eyes again and looked around.
He was outdoors in the chill Komarran dark, chained to a railing along the walkway on the blank side of what appeared to be the Waste Heat engineering building. Colored floodlights positioned in the vegetation two meters below, prettily illuminating the building and raised concrete walk, were the source of the eye-piercing light. Beyond them, the view was singularly uninformative, the ground falling away from the building and then rising, beyond it, into blank barrenness. The railing was a simple one, metal posts set into the concrete at meter intervals and a round metal handrail running between them. He was slumped to his knees, the concrete hard and cold beneath them, and his wrists were chained—chained? yes, chained, the links fastened with simple metal locks—to two successive posts, holding him half-spread-eagled.
His ImpSec comm-link was still strapped to his left wrist. He could not, of course, reach it with his right hand. Or– he tried—his head. He twisted his wrist around, to press it against the railing, but the screamer-button was recessed to prevent accidental bumps setting it off. Miles swore under his breath, and his breath mask. The mask appeared to be tightly fitted to his face, and he could feel the oxygen bottle still firmly strapped to his chest under his jacket—who had fastened his jacket up to his chin?—but he would have to be exquisitely careful not to jostle the mask till he had his hands free again to readjust it.