TKC 230 and 231
I do not want to discuss Horin and his orb, not when I am trying to wrap my mind around this new knowledge. Heir? Ruler of a world? What does that make Lyra? Is she his sister everywhere or only on Massin due to an accident of birth?
Kay murmurs about needing that shower and thankfully Ross takes the hint. We enter the shuttle behind him. The guards give us the once-over, but ignore us when Ross shakes his head.
It is huge. There is the cockpit area, all chrome and white, filled with gadgets and blinking buttons, along with four ergonomic chairs. A large and empty space with loops embedded into the ceiling is the main space. It is a military transport, Ross tells us. The soldiers hold onto the loops and really pack it in. He grumbles under his breath about nearly being squashed in the press. I like him more and more; he is a boy trying to be a man.
There is an ablution facility, a stores chamber, an armoury and a galley as well, and everything is spotless and sterile. It is so impersonal, I dislike it, but I am also admittedly agog. This is technology and nothing like it exists on Massin.
Ross introduces us to Corporal Allin. The man is a taskmaster; it is instantly obvious. He barks orders at us as if we too are soldiers. Being somewhat older than Ross, he takes his duties serious. Ross winks at us behind his back and leaves us in the corporal’s care.
Within minutes we are in the showers, a mixture of high pressure steam and a few drops of water. A minute after that we are commanded to dress. Kay lifts an eyebrow, but says not a word. Hal, however, tells Corporal Allin to mind his manners, that he must remember he is the stranger here. The soldier does not react; he simply departs. Marian splutters into laughter on seeing Hal’s expression.
The uniforms are dark charcoal, almost black, in hue and of a tough material abrasive on my skin. The moment I pull the breeches on is also the moment I desire to take them off again. How do they stand wearing this? Then, to my surprise, it is as if the material reads my body form and temperature, for the cloth over my thighs expands slightly, while the extra space at my shoulders contracts to fit snugly. Now it feels as if I am wearing something lightweight, something created specifically for me. I am neither hot nor cold; I am at optimum operating status.
“Now this is something different,” Marian murmurs. “I’m not naked, am I? Certainly feels like it.”
This time I burst into laughter, having just had the same thought.
The boots likewise are perfect for every foot. “One can really kick butt with these,” Kay states.
Corporal Allin is back. “Commander Gennerin will be with your shortly. Please follow me; I have your meals prepared.”
We follow to the large space where there is now a metal table and chairs that seem to have sprung up from the floor. Metal plates await us filled with a mixture of vegetables. We sit and eat. We eat everything, yes, being beyond hunger, but never has anything tasted as bland.
“Your choice of drink,” Allin states as boot steps sound on the ramp outside.
“Coffee,” I say. “Please tell me you have coffee.”
“We do. Our commander refuses to travel anywhere unless there is coffee aboard.” Finally the corporal unbends a little to crack a smile. It is wiped off when the commander under discussion stomps in.
“Allin, tell me you have a fresh brew,” he states, and takes a seat at the table with us.
“Yes, sir. One minute, sir.” Allin vanishes with alacrity.
Commander Gennerin stares at us. “Tell me about the orb.”