Voyage From Yesteryear

Apparently some of Padawski’s friends had the idea that the Chironian women were among the things that could be had for the taking on Chiron, and two of them had persisted in pressing lewd advances upon the two girls at the bar despite their being told repeatedly and in progressively less uncertain terms that the girls weren’t interested. The soldiers, who had been drinking heavily, became angry and even more unpleasant, paying no attention to dour warnings from around the room. An argument developed, in the course of which Ramelly grabbed one of the women and handled her roughly. She produced a gun and shot him in the leg. There would probably have been no more to it than that if Wilson hadn’t seized the gun and turned it on the Chironians who were about to intervene, at which point another Chironian had shot him dead from the back of the room.

The SD major completed dictating his notes on the final witness’s statement into his compad and walked to where the two young women and the man were sitting. Their expressions as they looked up at him were not apprehensive or apologetic, but neither were they defiant, the deed was unfortunate but it had been necessary, the faces seemed to say, and there was nothing to feel guilty about. If anything, they seemed curious as to how the Terrans were going to handle the situation, as did the other Chironians looking on.

“One of our people has been killed, and there are set procedures that we hove to follow,” the major announced. “My orders require me to take you three back with us. It would make things a lot easier for everybody if you complied. I’m sorry, but I don’t have any choice.”

“Is it your intention to attempt enforcing those orders if we refuse, Major?” the Chironian who had killed Wilson asked. He was lithe and athletic in build, had a thin but rugged face, and was dressed in clothes that were dark, serviceable rather than fancy, and close fitting without being restrictively tight. He reminded Colman of the bad guy in an ancient Western movie. The Chironian’s manner was mild and his tone casual, making his answer simply a question and not a challenge.

The major met his eye firmly. “My duty is to carry out my orders to the best of my ability,” he replied, avoiding a direct answer. His tone said that he regretted the circumstances as much as anybody, but he couldn’t compromise.

The display of tact seemed to do the trick. The Chironian held his eye for a moment longer, and then nodded. “Very well.” Inwardly Colman breathed a sigh of relief. The women were evidently willing to allow the man to speak for them too. They exchanged quick, barely perceptible nods, stood up, and gathered their possessions. Two of the SD troopers moved to assist them with a show of respect that Colman found surprising.

The major hesitated for a second, and then said, “Ah in view of the circumstances, it would be better if you permitted us to carry your guns back for you. Would you mind?’

“Are you telling us we’re prisoners?” the Chironian man asked.

“I would prefer not to use that term,” the major answered. “The legal ramifications are not for me to comment on. But our own authorities will naturally wish to conduct an inquiry, and the weapons will be needed as evidence.”

“By your customs,” the Chironian observed.

“It was one of our people,” the major said.

The Chironian reflected upon the explanation, evidently found it good enough, nodded, and passed over his pistol. The girl who had wounded Ramelly followed suit. Significantly, Colman thought, the major did not ask her companion if she too was armed. As the guards began

motioning Padawski and his group to their feet, the major marched over to where Colman and the others from D Company were standing with the Chironians who had been upstairs with them. He had already taken their names and established that they had not witnessed the incident firsthand. “You guys are free to go,” he informed them. “If there’s a hearing, you might be called in to testify. If so, the appropriate people will contact you.”

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Categories: Hogan, James