Voyage From Yesteryear

But Lesley was not listening as he gazed down at the platform below, which fanned outward from the arc lights above the lock to become indistinct in the darkness of the antechamber. Figures – were moving slowly from the shadows by the transit tubes and freight rails, spread thinly at the back, but closing up as they converged with the lines of the platform. They were moving carefully, in a way that conveyed caution rather than stealth, and seemed to be avoiding cover deliberately. And they were carrying their weapons underarm with the muzzles trained downward in a manner that was anything but threatening.

“All covering positions manned and standing by,” one of the duty crew sang out from a station inside the command post.

“LCP’s standing by and ready to fire,” another voice reported.

“Intruder defenses primed and ready to activate.”

“Lock at condition orange and ready to close.”

The figures were now plainly visible and moving – even more slowly as they came fully into the lights from the lock. They were regular infantry, Lesley could see. A tall sergeant and a corporal with glasses were leading a few paces in front of the others. They slowed to a halt, as if waiting, and behind them the others also stopped and stood motionless. Lesley’s jaw tightened as he stared down through the observation port. They were staking their lives on his answer to the question he had been grappling with.

Jarvis appeared Suddenly in the doorway beside Chaurez. “Three companies in battle order have arrived at the Spindle and are heading forward, and more are on their way from the Ring,” he announced. “Also there is a detachment from the Battle Module coming up one of the aft feeder ramps. They must be coming back to close the lock.”

Lesley looked at the two of them, but they said nothing. There was nothing more they could tell him. He could close the lock and commit himself to the protecting the Battle

Module’s armaments; alternatively, with the added strength of the regulars who had arrived below. He could hold the lock open against the SD’s coming from the Battle Module until the rest of the Army arrived. It was time for him to decide his answer.

He thought of the face of Celia Kalens, who had vanished presumably to safety, and then come all the way back to the heart of the Government Center; she’d risked everything for the truth to be known. Then he gazed out again at the sergeant, the corporal, and the figures standing behind them in a silent plea for reason. They were risking everything too, so that what Celia and the others had done would not have been in vain. Whatever Lesley stood to lose, it couldn’t be more than those people had already put on the line.

“Tell the men to stand down,” he said quietly to Jarvis. “Deprime the intruder systems and revert the lock to condition green. Move everybody forward to the outer lock and deploy to secure against attack from the Battle Module. Chaurez, get those men down there inside. We’re going to need all the help we can get.” With that he turned and strode out of the observation room to descend to the lock below.

Jarvis and Chaurez caught each other’s eye. After a moment, Jarvis breathed a sigh of relief. Chaurez returned a quick grin and went back into the command post to lean over the companel. “Lieutenant,” Oordsen demanded angrily from the screen. “Where is Major Lesley? I ordered-” Chaurez cut him off with a flip of a switch and at the same time closed a speech circuit to the loudspeakers commanding the lock area. “Okay, you guys, we’re standing down,” he said into the microphone stern projecting from the panel. “Get in here as quick as you can. We’ve got trouble coming up a feeder ramp on the other side.”

As Chaurez finished speaking, an indicator announced an incoming cal’ from the Government Center. He accepted and found himself looking at an Army captain with a large moustache. “Forward Security Command Post,” Chaurez acknowledged.

“Sirocco, D Company commander, Second Infantry Brigade. Is your commanding officer there?’

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Categories: Hogan, James