In that cold infirmary light he looked like a corpse. Ellisen eyed the blanket under the straps. What did it hide? Something bad, else why the tube? Goddammit, someone come and talk to me! Skeleton crew fully engaged on flight deck. Bullshit. Hell, could they even fly this thing? He paced to the door, banged on it. Paced back to the screen. And back and forth, stopping every now and then to watch Sven. Would they ever pay for this!
So she stood, watching the cascading sequences, decompressing the tightly packed hieroglyphics into symbols that she recognized, watching those symbols detach, spritz out into a single line, the line resolving into stark spare text: -begin ellisen off end stealth team off end pioneer ship secured end gunther sven stand by end out-
Dang those people in the lift! (Ord) stamped hard up onto the first step. Too hard. Its edge broke off under him. He snatched for a non-existent stair rail, fell forward onto the stair, smacked his head on a step’s sharp edge, and went out. For an instant, his limp inert body lay sloped at an angle over the stair, then slowly it started to slide, bumping and gathering speed until he was rolling over and down.
“Have we a deadline yet, Hesikastor?” (Matthew.) “Yes. We evacuate when that ship lands.”
Though he was braced, he started as they cracked and split apart. Figures burst through, six goons, plasmers ready. As the last passed through, he slid out, and along the passage to the stock room. Stepping close to the wall, he found the plate, pressed, and dashed for the hatch. He half-fell clumsily down the companionway and activated the fans. Then collapsed, trembling, took off his helmet to sit with his back against the passage wall.
“You know who fired that shot? The one Katz took for you?” “How would I?” Ellisen said angrily. “They were all taking pot shots at us and if you hadn’t got us strung out like birds on a phone wire it would never have happened in the first place.” Sol shook his head. “You poor, dumb bastard. I saw who got off that shot, and the one before, the one that nearly clipped your ear. I saw his face quite clearly.” “So?” “It was your son.”
“Whatever, that Great Cavern, that ramp, and the plateau comprise the staging ground for our exodus. No one knows of it, of course, except for those involved in its preparation those many years ago.” “You foresaw all this, Hesikastor?” A bright smile lit the old man’s face. “Not specifically. But every foxhole ought to have a back door. That deep place is ours. It’s been ready for dire emergency since Bourg life began. Through it lies the way out. So now’s time to oil the hinges, turn the key.”
The intelligence took many forms, all of which flowed into the Bourg data system through various subsections. Right now, signals from Gunther’s ship had top priority. Which was fine except that they’d stopped coming in. Junghalt called MacAllister over. Stood with him, pointing at the screen. MacAllister shrugged, came back. “Nothing,” he said, looking wry. “Stealth has its downside.”
Somewhere, a siren shrilled. The space filled with fiery vapor, engulfing the ship. The silo cleared. The pad was empty. Really empty now. There was a roaring as giant fans sucked out the ship’s exhaust. Red light switched to amber. Amber to green. Green winked out. The plate went dark.
The problem with synopses is that they are potential spoilers for some readers, so I will assume that you have read/listened to the three earlier books in the series. If you come to this one straight as you read all should become clear. I have prefaced each book with part of an aria from Benjamin Britten’s “Peter Grimes” There is an eerie parallel between Peter’s mad ravings and the unfolding of this story. Here, in the series’ culmination, I quote the aria intact, pulling everything together. Now the great Bear and Pleiades where earth moves Are drawing up the clouds of human grief, Breathing solemnity in the deep night. Who can decipher, In storm or starlight, The written character of a friendly fate –– As the sky turns, the world for us to change? But if the horoscope’ s bewildering Like a flashing turmoil of a shoal of herring, Who can turn skies back and begin again? From “Peter Grimes” Benjamin Britten
” Before we leave, you must clear Cabram’s name.” Brocan strode back to stand before her. “I will do so, t’tahinay. And Bard will pay for this.” “Yes, though not at your hands. You will never find him. But powers greater than ours will bring him to account.” Together they walked back up the stairs. Note: This chapter closes The Hesta book. Monday will see the opening of And The Meek. Don’t forget there are bonuses and glossary to the series. Good listening and be safe.
“A true Gurdn,” Rakia went on. “They were all watching. For all their favor since the fire, you were still not strictly of the blood. But you showed them this day that it doesn’t really matter.”
“(Uncle Freyde) died for me, Dorcan.” “As you near died for one other.” Dorcan looked up. “There’s rain coming. Lots of it. It’ll sweep in at the turn.” He pointed to a stack of folded cloths beside the portal. “We’ll be setting them up to keep the mourners dry.” Hesta could stay no longer. Bidding Dorcan a hasty goodbye she fled back to the house and up the comfort of her chamber where she stayed, staring into the fire, until Rakia came in with the tea.
“T’tahinay,” Brocan said. “Be of cheer. What you have endured is over. Just think, even that has brought some compensation. Look at all these housefolk. You have their attention now. So enjoy it. You’ve paid your dues.”
Hesta bent down, peered under the cap frill. Rakia’s eyes were closed. She slid onto the nearest chair and sat, hands clasped in her lap. You took your time. Hesta started. Smiled. The old miper! Didn’t want to get back under your thumb too soon, Rakia. Where have you been? Over the hills and far away. I’ll tell you more when you are out of bed.
“Let us be clear, t’tahinay,” he added wryly. “The Hesta may be in your domain. But the t’tahinay is in mine. And for all the events of the past few days, she is still a rash and headlong child of but ten sunarounds who still has much to learn of the everyday world as anyone in this house would testify. Are we agreed on that?” Hesta looked down at her boots. “Yes, Father.” “That’s good. So now, while I address your evident needs, go to Rakia and wish her days of happiness for me!”
Gudric laughed. “Well, that tool certainly took care of Bard within this past space of the sandclock.” “Oh, yes,” Hesta agreed, gazing out across the plain. “He’s done.” And quite gone. The last shade was faded into evening mist. Together, they cranked the bridge back up. “What now?” Gudric asked, looking anxiously towards the house. “In your words, we lift the Dark. Then go to find my father.”
Hesta took her bearings. She was sitting easy in the saddle, leaning lightly back against her father’s chest. Slowly, she straightened, then twisting sideways, she leapt, and as she did so, she vanished from her father’s sight.
Men leapt down, seized B’hoc Lunan roughly, she, for some strange reason, offering not the least resistance. “Who are you, scrot, what do you in this region? Speak, before your gizzard’s slit!” No! Hesta was on her feet. One man called out, pointed. “Another—there!” The one holding B’hoc Lunan looked towards her and Hesta caught his face. Greyr.
Hesta could barely think. “Something bad’s happened. Father—” “He spoke to you?” “Rakia. She told me to hurry. Oh, B’hoc Lunan!” “Listen, it might not be anything, t’tahinay. If you sent, and she heard you, mayhap she’s just impatient to see you.” “No!” Hesta heard her voice rising. “It wasn’t like that. I merely was thinking of her. But however this happened, I am certain that I am needed—now….”