Voyage From Yesteryear

Clem frowned and brought a hand up to his chin. “Depends what you mean by authority,” he said. “I organize the regular engineering crew of the ship and supervise the maintenance. I suppose you could say that’s authority of a kind. Then again, I don’t have a lot to do with some of the special research programs and modifications but Hermann does.”

“True,” Hermann, the young man in the white labcoat, agreed. “But on top of that, parts of this place are used as a school to give the kids early off-planet experience. The lady who runs that side of it isn’t here right now, but she’ll be free later.”

“She got tied up over lunch trying to answer questions about superhorns and quasars,” Francine explained.

“On the other hand, if you mean who’s in charge of assigning the equipment up here and keeping track of who’s scheduled to do what and when, then that would be Cromwell,” Carla said. “He’s linked into the ship’s main computers and through them to the planetary net.”

“Cromwell knows everything,” Amy declared from her perch. “Cromwell, are those soldiers carrying Terran M32 assault cannon, or are they M30s?”

“M32s,” the robot said. “They’ve the enhanced fireselectors.” –

“I hope they’re not going to start shooting each other up here. It would be pretty scary in orbit. They could decompress the whole ship.”

“I think they know that,” Cromwell said. “They’ve spent

a lot longer in space than the few trips you’ve made.””I suppose so.”

The assistant’s patience snapped at last. “This is ridiculous! I want to know who is in overall authority here. You must have a Director of Operations or some equivalent. Please be kind enough to–”

Farnhill stopped him with a curt wave of his hand. “This spectacle has gone far enough,” he said. He looked at Clem. “Perhaps we could continue this discussion in conditions of greater privacy. Is there somewhere suitable near here?”

“Sure.” Clem gestured vaguely behind him. “There’s a big room back along the corridor that’s free and should hold everybody. We could all get some coffee there too. I guess you could use some–you’ve had a long trip, huh?”

He grinned at the joke as he, turned to lead the way. Farnhill didn’t seem to appreciate the humor.

“Ahem . . .” General Portney cleared his throat. “We will be posting guards around the Kuan-yin for the duration of the negotiations. I trust there will be no objections.” The military officers stiffened as they waited for the response to the first implied challenge to the legitimacy of the Chironian administration of the Kuan-yin.

Clem waved an arm casually without looking back. “Go ahead,” he said. “Can’t see as you really need any, though. You’re pretty safe up here. We don’t get many burglars.” Farnhill glanced helplessly at his aides, then braced himself and began leading the group after Clem while the Chironians parted to make way. The military deputation broke formation. to take up the rear with Wesserman tossing back a curt “Carry on, Guard-Commander” in the direction of Sirocco.

The relief detachment from B Company marched from the exit of the shuttle to take up positions in from of the ramp, and Sirocco stepped forward to address the advance guard. “Ship detail, atten-shun! Two ranks in marching order, fall . . . in!” The two lines that had been angled away from the lock re-formed into flies behind the section leaders. “Sentry details will detach and fall out at stations. By the left… march!” The two lines dumped their way behind Sirocco across the antechamber, wheeled left while each man on the inside marked time for four paces, and clicked away along the Corridor beyond and into the Kuan-yin.

Amy watched curiously over the top of Cromwell’s head as they disappeared from sight. “I wonder why they walk like that when they shout at each other,” she mused absently. “Do you know why, Cromwell?”

“Have you thought about it?” Cromwell asked.

“Not really.”

“You should think about things as well as just ask questions. Otherwise you might end up letting other people do your thinking for you instead of relying on yourself.”

“Ooh… I wouldn’t want to do that,” Amy said. .

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Categories: Hogan, James