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"Better it is to die for what one believes in than to run and hide in a hole
in the ground!" He was having trouble keeping up with the humans, whose feet
were far better designed than his for climbing.
"A foolish and primitive notion."
"They've got us outgunned," Antal told him. He gestured with his own hand
beamer. "I'll explain it one more time. Our light weapons are not as powerful
as theirs."
"Then what are we to do?"
"First we make sure they can't touch us." The foreman nodded toward the
entrance to the installation which lay one last switchback ahead. "We lock
ourselves out of their reach. Then we bargain. They could probably blast their
way in, but that would mean casualties on both sides. I think they'd rather
talk."
"Talk." Bamaputra wasn't breathing hard at all. "What is there to talk about?
These are not government representatives. I do not know who they are but they
are not that. Not that it matters. It is enough that they are friends of those
whose destiny we once controlled. Their destiny was our destiny, and now that
control has slipped through our fingers."
"We can still try to strike a deal with them," Antal insisted. "We can hold
out till the regular supply ship arrives."
"Don't be a fool." They had reached the cleared area which fronted the
entrance to the installation. As they watched, the huge door rolled up into
the solid rock, admitting them to the complex beyond. "We are finished here.
The project is finished. They will communicate with the authorities. We will
not be given time to reach our own relief ship. Now if there was a way to
disable their skimmer& "
"Not a chance. They've got rifles down there. They can sit around and pick off
anyone, human or Tran, who tries to get close."
"As I feared." They were inside the complex now. Curious engineers and
technicians looked up from their work as their supervisors walked past. Corfu
was already getting hot, but he followed anyway. He had nowhere else to go.
"There's got to be something we can do," Antal muttered. "If they take us
back, it means mindwipe at least."
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"Better to die. The body lives on but the soul perishes."
Antal eyed him askance. "What do you mean, 'soul'? Mindwiping just removes
whatever the psytechs identify as criminal tendencies. When it's over you're
still the same person you were when you went in."
Bamaputra was shaking his head. "Are you so credulous as to believe the
government's propaganda? They leave you enough to function -with, but you are
not the same person. Something vital has been taken away."
"Sure. The criminal part. Just the criminal part."
"But we are not criminals, you and I. We are visionaries. I do not think I
could stand to lose the visionary part of myself."
The foreman frowned, but Bamaputra appeared to be completely in control of
himself. "Yeah, well, I'll take care of securing the station, making an
announcement about what's happened and what we can expect. There's only the
pedestrian entrance and the cargo dock to seal. No matter how much portable
firepower they can bring to bear I still think we can keep 'em out long enough
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to do some bargaining. Meanwhile you can start shutting stuff down."
"Shutting down, yes, of course," Bamaputra murmured softly. "There are records
to destroy, chips to erase, people to protect." He turned on Antal so sharply
that the foreman jumped in spite of himself. "Whatever you do, do not
negotiate with this
September person. Try to talk to the scientists. If we are fortunate, there
may be a government official among them. Such types will go to almost any
length to avoid bloodshed. I will see to the pumps and reactors while you
brief the staff."
"Got it." They separated, leaving behind a confused and panting Corfu ren-
Arhaveg.
Only much later did Antal reflect on his supervisor's words. Seeing to the
pumps and reactors did not necessarily mean shutting such systems down.
* * *
There was some desultory resistance put up by the ragtag imperial armed forces
of
Yingyapin. It didn't last long. Spears and swords weren't much of a match for
beamers and energy rifles. Despite the pleas of Hunnar and Elf a, Colette
directed her troops to shoot only to wound. After all, as Hwang explained to
her, the citizens of Yingyapin were as much victims of the visiting humans'
deceit as anyone aboard
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Slanderscree
. Once the truth could be explained to them they should become useful members
of the expanding Tran union.
When the last soldier had dropped his weapons and fled, those on board the
skimmer considered what to do next. Iriole was studying the entrance to the
buried installation through a monocular.
"Door looks pretty solid. I'm not sure we can blast our way past."
"We shouldn't have to," said September. "They know it's in their best
interests to surrender peacefully. They can't go anywhere. The threat of
busting in should be sufficient to induce the lower echelons, at least, to
come out with their hands in the air. Can the skimmer make the climb?"
Skimmers were designed to travel no more than thirty meters above a solid
surface. They were not designed for ascending steep inclines. They were not
aircraft. Still, if they moved slowly, Iriole thought they might be able to
make it to the level area fronting the entrance. He looked to his employer for
instructions.
"Let's give it a try."
Ethan put his arm around her. Somehow it seemed the right thing to do. Didn't
feel bad, either.
"Everybody take a seat and strap down," Iriole told them. "We're going to tilt
some and I don't want anybody falling out."
When the awkward climb had been accomplished and they landed outside the
massive doorway, Grurwelk Sees-far wanted to go back down and make the
exhilarating ascent all over again.
"Mr. Antal, sir?"
The foreman turned to the young technician who'd barged in on him. "What is
it?
I'm busy?"
"I think you'd better come with me, sir."
"Can't. I'm trying to do a dozen things at once right now. Didn't you hear me
over the com system? Don't you know what's going on?"
"Yes, sir. But I still think you'd better come with me. It's Mr. Bamaputra,
sir."
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He removed his right hand from the sensor screen and turned to her. "What
about
Mr. Bamaputra?" he asked quietly.
"You'd better come quick, sir." That's when he noticed that she was so
frightened she was shaking.
A crowd had gathered outside the central control room. It contained the master
panels for programming reactor output. Armored glass enclosed it on all four
sides, standard protection for the sensitive heart of the installation. Except
for Bamaputra the room was deserted. It was also locked from the inside.
A single speaker was set in the glass next to the transparent door. "Shiva,
what are you doing in there?"
The supervisor turned to smile back at him. "Preserving a vision, perhaps.
Surely you recall our discussion wherein we talked about greatly accelerating
the melting of the ice?"
The technician who had fetched Antal pointed into the room. As the foreman
scanned the readouts she'd indicated the small hairs on the back of his neck
began to tense. The figures he read belonged only in manuals, not on green
screens. They continued climbing even as he stared.
"Shiva, you're going to overload the whole system! You've probably gone beyond
several limits already. You need to let us in so we can emergency override and
shut the system down."
"If we do that now, we will not be able to start up again," Bamaputra
explained quietly. "I have ample food and water in here with me. I really [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]