The Ship Who Sang: Fantasy | Chapter 8 of 14 - Part: 1 of 14

Author: Anne McCaffrey | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 24034 Views | Add a Review

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The Ship Who Killed

EVERY DIVERTED SYNAPSE in Helva’s shell-encased body vibrated in unconditional revolt against the autocracy of Central Worlds Service.

‘All haste, all haste,’ she snarled in impotent revolt to her sister ship, the 822, on the private ship-to-ship band on which not even Cencom could eavesdrop.

The Seld-Ilsa snorted unsympathetically. ‘You’re doing something, which is more than I can say in Mediation Service. I’ve spent weeks and weeks on end waiting for them to make up their minds which planetary crisis is most crucial. By the time we get there, critical mass has been reached and we have a helluva mess to clean up.’

‘You think MedServ doesn’t proscrastinate?’ Helva retorted sharply. ‘Why Jennan and I . . .’ and she stopped, startled to have been able to mention his name.

Ilsa took advantage of the brief pause and grumbled on, oblivious to Helva’s stunned silence.

‘You’d think they’d have briefed us better in training. When I think of the situations I’ve already encountered that were never even mentioned! Theory, procedure, technique, that’s all we handled. Not a single practical suggestion. Just garbage, garbage, trivial garbage. They don’t need brain ships, they need computers!’ The 822 ranted on. ‘Stupid, senseless, unemotional computers.’

Helva spotted the fallacies in the 822’s complaints but remained quiet. She and Ilsa had been classmates and she knew from past experience the voids in the other’s personality.

‘I heard,’ the 822 said confidentially, ‘that your mission has to do with that blue block building in the hospital annex.’

Helva adjusted her right fin scanner but the oblong structure was devoid of any unusual feature that would indicate its contents.

‘Have you heard when I’m supposed to hasten away from here again?’ she asked Ilsa hopefully.

‘Can’t talk now; here comes Seld back. See you around.’

Helva watched as the 822’s brawn-half ascended to the airlock and the SI-822 lifted off Regulus Center Base. Seld had partied with Jennan in Helva one time when both ships were down at Leviticus IV. Seld had a passable bass, as she recalled it. Envy briefly touched her. She flicked back to the ambiguous hospital annex, savagely wondering what kind of emergency this would be. And would she remain an X-designate the rest of her service life?

She had set down at the end of the great Regulus field, the farthest edge from the Service Cemetery. Despite her resignation to Jennan’s loss, despite Theoda’s healing tears, Helva could not bring herself to grind more salt into her sorrow by proximity to Jennan’s grave. Perhaps in a century or so . . . Consequently, waiting around on Regulus was painful. And with the 822 gone, she could no longer divert her pain into anger at the prolonged wait she must endure.

‘KH-834, your “brawn” is on her way with assignment tape,’ Cencom alerted her.

Helva acknowledged the message, excitement stirring within her. It was almost a relief to receive a double-initial call, the pleasure overriding her twinge of regret that her ‘brawn’ partner was feminine. It was a relief, too, to experience any emotion after the numbing of Jennan’s death. The Annigoni experience had broken her apathy.

A ground car zipped out from the direction of the massive Control and Barracks complex, skidding to a stop at her base. Without waiting, Helva lowered the lift and watched as a tiny figure hefted three pieces of baggage onto the platform.

‘K’ meant to stay a while, Helva decided. The lift ascended and shortly her new brawn was framed in the open lock, against the brilliant Regulan sky.

‘Kira of Canopus requesting permission to board the XH-834,’ said the young woman, saluting smartly toward Helva’s position behind the titanium bulkhead.

‘Permission granted. Welcome aboard, Kira of Canopus.’

The girl kicked the limp lump of a fabric bag unceremoniously aboard. But she carefully carried the other two back to the pilot’s cabin. The odd-shaped one Helva identified, after a moment’s reflection, as an ancient stringed instrument called a guitar.

‘Naturally they’d send me someone musically oriented,’ she thought, not at all sure she was pleased with this infringement on her most cherished memories of Jennan. She ruthlessly suppressed this unworthy thought with the admonition that the majority of service personnel were musically oriented. The infinite possibilities of the art passed traveltime admirably.

Kira flipped open the other compact case and Helva, surreptitiously peeking, noticed it was full of vials and other medical equipment. Kira inspected the contents with quick fingers and, closing the case, strapped it with care against the rigors of acceleration on the shelves behind the bed.

Kira was, in form and nature as well as sex, the antithesis of Jennan. Since she was in a carping mood, Helva wondered how much of that was intentional. But that would mean Cencom had more sensitivity than Helva decided, privately, they were computationally blessed with.

Kira of Canopus couldn’t weigh more than 40 kilos fully suited. Her narrow face with slanted cheekbones had a delicacy which appeared ill-suited to bear the designation brawn. Her hair, dark brown, was braided tightly in many loops around her long, oval skull. Her eyes, wide set and almond shaped, were of a clear, cool, deep green, thickly lashed. Her fingers, slim and tapering, were as dainty as her narrow feet, oddly graceful in heavy shipboots. Her movements, swift and sure, were quicksilver, full of restless energy, dartingly inquisitive.

Kira reentered the main cabin. Helva, used to Theoda’s lethargic movements, had to adjust quickly.

Kira inserted the order tape, locking it into its niche in the pilot’s board. As the code ran through, a startled exclamation was wrung from Helva.

‘Three hundred thousand babies?’

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Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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