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.Syntha skin and syntha pleura aren't as good as the real thing, of course.There's very little incorporation of nerve endings at all, though some capillary acceptance.Well, that's medicalese.I won't bore you with it.Nothing for you to concern yourself about, sir."Brenna was two people again—the tough, by-the-book pilot, accepting the gamble and the risks of the game as the go-to-glory price.The rest of her felt sick.Morgan.Alive but trapped forever inside an artificial skin.She had seen documentaries on this lifesaving method during the first-aid courses she had taken.It was true.Burn victims did live because of this miracle invention.Live? A skin that looked as if it came from a mannequin, with touchy heat and cold sensitivity and nil tactile qualities.There would be muscle atrophy, constant danger of infection.what else? She didn't want to know.The doctors weren't giving them the full story yet.That was merciful.Morgan's survival wasn't assured, and there was no point in being cruel, spelling out what his future would be like—until they were sure he had a future."Look," Dr.Ives was saying, "there's not a lot any of you can do here right now.Your husband's under sedation, Aluna, as much as we dare give him.I don't think it's wise for you to try to see him at present.And Morgan's in a coma.So."The liaison officer spoke up."We've arranged quarters for everyone, in the visitors' area.If there's anything we can do to make you more comfortable, let us know." He was eager to please.It wasn't often this branch of Wyoma Lee Foix Space Hospital had the chance to host its sponsor's husband and daughter and assorted entourages.Brenna cleared her throat.The effort hurt.An enormous, sharp lump was stuck there—unshed tears for Rue and Morgan and Tumaini."We.we have to make arrangements.""For Miss Polk, of course," the liaison officer said sympathetically."Lieutenant Polk's.uh.final-request specs are on file with Breakthrough Unlimited." He waved at one of the aides who had accompanied Todd Saunder to the hospital."Your man Evanow is coordinating with me.Everything will be set up the way Lieutenant Polk would have wished."Helen Ives's mother-henning instincts were coming to the fore.The pilots were no longer in training for a major flight, but she tried to shoo them away to the visitors' quarters for some rest.They all fended her off, refusing, and after a bit of arguing, she departed in disgust.Other hospital staffers were helping Brenna's father and Aluna Beno, nursemaiding the shocked and stricken family and friends.Brenna entrusted her father to his aides and the others and detained Evanow in the conference room.Before Aluna left, Brenna tried to express her regrets.Tumaini's wife rounded on her with a fierce glare."I do not wish to talk to you, Saunder.To any of you!" Mrs.Beno's icy fury took in all of her husband's comrades.Then, without another word, she stalked out, letting a hospital staffer show her to the room that had been reserved for her."She never was." Hector began, then caught a warning glance from Brenna and shut up.Brenna beckoned to Evanow and hastily ran through some of the PR info he would need.ComLink and TeleCom and the independents would be besieging the hospital for updates.Evanow had his work cut out for him.Brenna was glad the man had plenty of experience with Breakthrough Unlimited and her father's branch of Saunder Enterprises.He was a colonist, too, so the free-fall and partial-gravity conditions aboard the hospital weren't likely to trouble him.".and one last thing," Brenna said as Evanow was completing the entries on his mini-memory wrist terminal."I want Charlie Dahl out of touch.Lock him on the other side of the door.Let that bastard freeze his balls off before he gets another scrap of news from any of us." Evanow looked as if he would rather enjoy that assignment.The abrasive TeleCom reporter had stepped on other toes besides Brenna's."Feed tidbits to whoever's Charlie's worst rival at TeleCom.Got it?" Evanow nodded and left.Brenna wondered for a moment if her fellow pilots would think she was being vindictive.Nagata answered that."We should do much worse to him.He caused a delay.He may have killed…"No," Brenna said hastily, not wanting to hear more, superstition flaring.If it's spoken, it might come true! "No, Dahl's interference wasn't critical.But he shouldn't have butted in.He's been riding too high too long, and it's time someone took him down.This will teach him a lesson."Nagata sought someone to blame for the disaster."None of it should have happened.All our unmanned tests were perfect."Brenna was tempted to remind him that he, Joe Habich, and Adele Zyto were the "kids" of the project.They had been with Breakthrough Unlimited only for eighteen months and hadn't participated in several of those unmanned tests Shoje referred to.This wasn't the time to emphasize how green they were, though, in the project's terms.They all did have a good, solid background in commercial spaceflight.None of them was an amateur."If we only knew what fouled up.""The Vahnaj could tell us," Hector chimed in."But they're not going to.Quol-Bez is a nice guy, sure, but his government? They care nothing for us humans.""Why should they?" Nagata responded bitterly."They already have FTL drive."Hector nodded."That's right.FTL spaceships like the Ambassador's and FTL radio to boot.""Lording it over us," Shoje Nagata mumbled, nursing his anger."Laughing at us squatting here in our backyard.They will give Hiber-Ship everything it asks for, but not us.""Knock it off," Brenna warned.Guards posted outside the door and now and then a passing hospital staffer heard the loud voices in the conference room and peered in curiously.This was no place for a pilots' bullshit session! But Brenna was losing control, couldn't shut them up."Somebody ought to take that Vahnaj ship and pick her guts apart.""Yeah! If we'd done that before now, maybe this wouldn't have."Yuri Nicholaiev tried to break in."Durak! We do not know that yet.We do not even have all the data.""What the hell do you know about it, Nicholaiev? You can always go back to Space Fleet if the going gets too rough at Breakthrough."The Russian clenched his fists.Hector stepped between him and Nagata hastily, before either of them could start swinging.Yuri and the younger pilot glared at each other, plainly struggling to keep their tempers.Brenna jumped into the momentary silence."Shut off this fuel flow right now! You're not thinking straight."Yuri nodded."That is so," Hector said."We can talk this over later, when we are calmer.There is a lot we must find out first.""We know the Vahnaj still can step all over us in interstellar space," Shoje retorted."Maybe you'd like to go back to Space Fleet, too? Or better yet, sign up with Hiber-Ship and get to the stars that way.""That's enough!" Brenna had to yell to make the order effective.It worked.Civilian heads turned.All the pilots finally became conscious of where they were and who was listening to them.Some semblance of discipline returned, the rebellion fading from their faces.Brenna sighed."All right.We each have things to do.Nagata, you're in charge of refueling and refitting our ships.Arrange for someone from Breakthrough Unlimited on Mars to ferry Chase One and Two back to FTL Station.Okay? Yuri, you work with Evanow.Have him send additional PR staffers up here, if necessary.It looks as if we'll be here for a while.Dad and I will be, for sure.Evanow can handle media releases—unless someone else here wants to go on camera and be all smiles for the public?" Their glum expressions mirrored Brenna's.There were no volunteers [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]