Voyage From Yesteryear

“What do you think?” Bernard asked Colman after a short silence. “Could it be done?”

“I don’t know. It depends on the situation. Maybe. That’s something else we’ll have to leave to Sirocco to decide.”

Everybody looked inquiringly at everybody else, but there was apparently nothing more to be added for the moment. At last Colman rose to his feet. “Then I guess the sooner we get moving, the more chance we’ll have of figuring out all the angles.” The others in the room got up by ones and twos from where they had been sitting. Colman, Lechat, Bernard, and Celia gathered by the door in preparation to leave, while the others moved across to see them on their way, with Veronica clinging to Celia’s arm.

“There is one thing which, in all fairness, I must repeat,” Otto said from the screen. They turned and looked back at him. “We cannot alter our basic decision in any way. If Sterm becomes threatening, we will be forced to react. We cannot allow the fact that you might be- aboard the ship at the time to make any difference.”

Lechat nodded. “That was already understood,” he replied grimly.

While the others passed through into the hallway of the apartment, Kath turned back toward the screen and touched a control on the compad. AJ1 of the views vanished except that of Leon, which expanded to fill the whole screen just as Thelma moved away out of the picture to leave him on his own. “We ought to commence evacuating the Kuan-yin,” Kath said. “It looks as if it could be dangerous up there very soon.”

“I had already come to that conclusion,” Leon replied. – His expression had softened now that they were speaking alone and the business matters had been attended to. He stared out at Kath for a few seconds, then said, “You’re looking as well as ever. Are the children keeping fine too?”

“As ever,” Kath told him and smiled. “And yours, Lurch?”

Leon grinned. “Mischievous, but they’re fun.” He paused for a moment. “He seems to be a good man. You should be very happy until whenever. I hope nothing happens to them. They are all brave people. I admire them?’

“I hope so too,” Kath said with feeling. “I ought to go now and see them off. Take care, Leon.”

“You too.” The image vanished from the screen.

Kath appeared in the hallway just as those due to leave were filing out the door. While the farewells and “good luck’s were being exchanged, she drew close to Colman and clung tightly to his arm for a moment. “Come back,” she whispered.

He returned the squeeze reassuringly. “You’d better believe it?’

“I wish I felt as confident as you sound. It seems risky.” “Not when you’ve got the best outfit that the Army ever

produced on your side,” he told her.

“Oh, is that what it is? I never realized. You never told me you were with a special unit.”

“Classified information,” Colman murmured. Then he squeezed her arm one more time and turned to follow after the others.


OUTSIDE DAWN WAS creeping into the sky as Stanislau sat before a portable communications panel in one corner of the mess hall of the Omar Bradley Block, frowning at the mnemonics appearing on the screen and returning coded commands with intermittent movements of his fingers. Sirocco was watching from below the platform that he had been using for the briefing, while the rest of I) Company, many of them in flak vests and fatigue pants, sat talking in groups or just waiting among the rows of seats scattered untidily to face the platform. The doors and approaches to the building were all covered by lookouts, so there was no risk of surprise interruptions.

Sirocco had devised a plan for getting the Company up to the ship and into the Communications Center, but it hinged on Stanislau’s being able to alter the orders posted for the day, which were derived from schedules held in one of the military logistics computers. Lechat, who was standing nearby with Celia and Colman, had called for a test-run to make sure that Stanislau could do- it, since if that part of the scheme didn’t work none of the rest could. Sirocco had suspended the briefing to resolve the issue there and then.

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