Voyage From Yesteryear

Colman frowned and shook his head with a sigh as he thought about it. “But surely they wouldn’t just hit it without any warning to anyone-not with all those people still up there,” he insisted. “Wouldn’t they say something first.. let Sterm know what he’s up against?”

“I don’t know,” Bernard said dubiously. “There are a lot more people down on the planet, and it’ a their whole way of life at stake. Maybe they wouldn’t. Who knows exactly how the Chironians think when all the chips are down? Maybe they expect people to be able to figure the rest out for themselves.”

Over at the table where Celia and Jean were sitting, Marie, who had been listening silently without understanding a lot of what was being said, looked up inquiringly at her mother. Jean smiled and squeezed her hand reassuringly.

“So what is it they’ve got?” Colman asked again. “Missiles wouldn’t be any use to them, and they know it. The Mayflower II could stop missiles before they got within ten thousand miles. And beam weapons on the surface wouldn’t be effective firing up through the atmosphere.” He spread his hands imploringly. “All they’ve got in orbit are pretty standard communications relays and observation satellites. The moons are both out of range of beam projectors. So what else is there?”

“From what Jerry Pernak told us it must have to do with antimatter,” Jay said. “The Chironians are into a whole new world of particle theory. That means they can produce lots of antimatter economically. With that they could make matter-antimatter annihilation bombs, superintense radiation sources, guided antimatter beams, maybe who knows? But it has to be something like that.”

The mention of antimatter reminded Colman of something. He sat back on the sofa and cast his mind back as he tried to pinpoint what. It reminded him of something Kath had said. The others stopped talking and looked at him curiously. And then it came to him. He cocked his head to one side and looked at Bernard. “Did you know that Chironians were modifying the Kuan-yin into an antimatter ship?” he asked.

Bernard sat forward, his expression suddenly serious. “No, I didn’t,” he said. “Is that what they’ve been doing to it? How did..” His voice trailed away silently.

Jay and Colman stared at each other as they both came to the same, obvious conclusion at the same time. “That’s it,” Jay murmured.

Bernard’s expression was grave and distant. “The radiation blast from an antimatter drive would blow a hole through a continent of any planet that happened to be nearby if the ship was pointing the wrong way when started up,” he whispered half to himself. “It’s been up there in orbit, right under our noses all the time. They’ve got the biggest radiation projector anybody ever dreamed of-right there, riding out in space with the Mayflower II. They put kids and comic robots on it, and we never even noticed it.”

A long silence went by while they took it all in. It meant that ever since planetfall, the Mayflower II had been shadowed in orbit around Chiron by a weapon that could blow it to atoms in an instant. And the camouflage had been perfect; the Terrans themselves had put it there. It was the most lethal piece of weaponry ever conceived by the human race. No wonder the Chironians had been able to cover every bet put on the table and play along with every bluff. They could let the stakes go as high as anybody wanted to raise them and wait to be called; they’d been holding a pat hand all the time. Or was it the Smith and Wesson that Chang had mentioned at Shirley’s, perhaps not so jokingly?

“We might not be the only ones who’ve noticed there’s an

extra hole on Remus,” Jay said at last. “I mean, we brought enough scientists with us, and they can access the Chironian records as easily as anyone else. The Chironians aren’t exactly secretive about their physics.”

“They could have,” Bernard agreed. “But have they? It doesn’t add up to the way Sterm’s acting.”

Jay shrugged. “Maybe he figures he’s got a better than even chance of outshooting them. Maybe he’s just crazy.”

Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 132 133 134 135 136 137 138 139 140 141 142 143 144 145 146 147 148 149 150 151 152 153 154 155 156 157 158 159 160 161 162 163 164

Categories: Hogan, James