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Книга Komarr. Содержание - CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

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"Then count yourself lucky you're on the Komarran side," said Soudha dryly. "Come on, folks, we have work to do, and less time than ever to do it. Starting from now, all sleep shifts are canceled. Lena, go wake up Cappell. And we have to figure out how to lock these ladies down safely out of the way for a while."

The Komarrans were no longer waiting for the Emperor's wedding to provide their ideal tactical moment, it appeared. How close were they to putting their device into action? Close enough, it appeared, that even the arrival of two unwanted hostages wasn't enough to divert them.

Aunt Vorthys was trying to sit up straighter; Arozzi's eye had returned to the boxes of cooling food at his feet. Now.

Ekaterin launched herself forward, barreling into Arozzi and dashing onward. Arozzi swung around after her, but was temporarily distracted by a blue boot, thrown with surprising accuracy if limited strength by Aunt Vorthys, which bounced off the side of his head. Soudha and Foscol both began sprinting after her, but Ekaterin made it to the alarm and yanked down the lever hard, hanging on it as Arozzi's wavering stun beam found her. It hurt more, this time. Her hands spasmed open, and she fell. The first beat of the klaxon smote her ears before the shock and blackness took her away again.

Ekaterin opened her eyes to see her aunt's face, sideways. She realized she was lying with her head on the Professora's lap. She blinked and tried to lick her lips. Her body was all pins and needles and deep aches. A wave of nausea wrenched her stomach, and she struggled to lean sideways. A couple of spasms did not result in vomiting, however, and after a muffled belch, she rolled back. "Are we rescued?" she mumbled. They did not look rescued to her. They appeared to be sitting on the floor of a tiny lavatory, chilly and hard.

"No," said the Professora in a tone of disgust. Her face was tense and pale, with red bruises showing in the soft skin of her face and neck. Her hair was half down, straggling over her brow. "They gagged me, and dragged us both over behind that thing. The station squad burst in all right, but Soudha made all sorts of fast-talk apologies. He claimed it was an accident when Arozzi stumbled into the wall, and agreed to pay some enormous fine or another for turning in false alarms. I tried to make a noise, but it didn't do any good. Then they locked us in here."

"Oh," said Ekaterin. "Drat." Oversocialized, maybe, but stronger words seemed just as inadequate.

"Just so, dear. It was a good try, though. For a moment, I thought it would work, and so did your Komarrans. They were very upset."

"It will make the next try harder."

"Very likely," agreed her aunt. "We must think carefully what it ought to be. I don't think we can count on a third chance. Brutality does not seem to come naturally to them, but they do act very stressed. I don't believe those are safe people, just now, for all that they know you. When do you think we will be missed?"

"Not very soon," said Ekaterin regretfully. "I sent a message to Uncle Vorthys when I first got in to the station hostel. He may not expect another till we fail to get off the ferry tomorrow night."

"Something will happen then," said the Professora. Her tone of quiet confidence was undercut when she added more faintly, "Surely."

Yes, but what will happen between now and then? "Yes," Ekaterin echoed. She stared around the locked lavatory. "Surely."


Professor Vorthys's requested experts were due to arrive at the Serifosa shuttleport at nearly the same early hour as Ekaterin departed for her connection with the jump station ferry, so Miles managed to invite himself along on what would otherwise have been a family farewell. Ekaterin did not discuss last night's visit from Venier with her uncle; Miles had no opportunity to urge her, Don't accept any marriage proposals from strangers while you're out there. The Professor loaded her with verbal messages for his wife, and got a goodbye hug. Miles stood with his hands shoved in his pockets, and nodded a cordial safe-journey to her.

What Miles thought of as the Boffin Express, a commercial morning flight from Solstice, landed a short time later. The five-space expert, Dr. Riva, turned out to be a thin, intense, olive-skinned woman of about fifty, with bright black eyes and a quick smile. A stout, sandy young man she had in tow whom Miles first pegged as an undergraduate student was revealed as a mathematics professor colleague, Dr. Yuell.

A high-powered ImpSec aircar waited to whisk them directly out to the Waste Heat experiment station. When they arrived, the Professor led them all upstairs to his nest, which seemed to have acquired more comconsoles, stacks of flimsies, and tables littered with machine parts overnight. To everyone's discomfort, but not to Miles's surprise, ImpSec Major D'Emorie took formal recorded oaths of loyalty and secrecy from the two Komarran consultants. Miles thought the loyalty oath was redundant, since neither academic could have held their current posts without having taken one previously. As for the secrecy oath . . . Miles wondered if either of the Komarrans had noticed yet that they had no way of leaving the experiment station except by ImpSec transport.

The five of them all then sat down to a lecture conducted by Lord Auditor Vorthys, which seemed halfway between a military briefing and an academic seminar, with a tendency to drift toward the latter. Miles wasn't sure if D'Emorie was there as participant or observer, but then, Miles didn't have much to say either, except to confirm one or two points about the autopsies when he was cued by Vorthys. Miles wondered again whether he might be more useful elsewhere, such as out with the field agents; he could hardly be less useful here, he realized glumly as the mathematical references began flying over his head. When you folks convert all that to the pretty colored shapes on the comconsole, show me the picture. I like my storybooks to have pictures in them. Perhaps he ought to go back to school for two or three years himself, and brush up. He consoled himself with the reflection that it was seldom he found himself in company who made him feel this stupid. It was probably good for his soul.

"The power that's fed into the—I suppose we can call it the horn—of the Necklin field generator is pulsed, definitely pulsed," Vorthys told the Komarrans. "Highly directional, rapid, and adjustable—I almost want to say, tunable."

"That's so very odd," said Dr. Riva. "Jumpship rods have steady power—in fact, keeping unwanted fluctuations out of the power is a major design concern. Let's try some simulations with the various hypotheses …"

Miles woke up, and bent closer, as the assorted theories began to take visible form as three-dimensional vector maps above the vid-plate. Professor Vorthys provided some limiting parameters based on the projected nature of the power supply. The boffins did indeed produce some pretty pictures, but except for aesthetic considerations involving color contrasts, Miles didn't see what was to choose among them.

"What happens if somebody stands in front of the directional five-space pulses from that thing?" he asked at last. At various distances, say. Or runs an ore freighter in front of it."

"Not much," said Riva, staring at the whirls and lines with an intensity at least equal to Miles's. "I'm not sure it would be good for you on the cellular level to be that close to any power generator of this magnitude, but it is, after all, a five-space field pulse. Any three-space effects would be due to some unfocus on the fringe, and doubtless take the energy form of gravitational waves. Artificial gravity is a five-space/three-space interface phenomenon, as is your military gravitic imploder lance."

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