IN THE STORMY RED SKY – snippet 48:
CHAPTER 13: En route to US1528
“Your Master Cazelet tells me that the Matrix from a masthead is the most spectacular thing I’ll ever see,” Forbes said. “But Lady Mundy doesn’t seem as convinced. Which of them is right, Leary?”
“I’m in agreement with Cazelet,” Daniel said. “I suspect that if it were possible to display imagery of the Matrix on Officer Mundy’s data unit, she’d be more impressed with it.”
While he pulled on the stiff sections of his rigging suit, Tovera was dressing the Senator in an air suit. Daniel would have been happier if the Senator were wearing a hard suit also, but the gear really was impossibly clumsy until you got used to it.
Mind, he’d have been happier still if Forbes hadn’t decided to take a jaunt on the hull. Rene Cazelet was right in his enthusiasm, but it wouldn’t be his responsibility if the Senator managed to kill herself by ripping her air suit wider than Daniel could fix with one of the emergency patches he was carrying on his equipment belt.
He grinned faintly. Adele had never managed to get used to a hard suit either. The chance that she’d awkwardly tear her suit on a sharp corner was less of a concern than that a rigging suit would make her stumble and she’d drift off into the Matrix as a miniature universe. Besides that, she’d gotten scrapes and bruises from the inside every time she’d worn a hard suit. Adele’s comfort wasn’t as high a priority to the RCN as her safety–neither was important to Officer Mundy herself–but when there wasn’t an obvious improvement in safety, comfort had to count for something.
The same was true of Senator Forbes, Daniel supposed, though despite being a former minister he doubted that anybody would be terribly upset if she had a fatal accident now that the embassy to Headman Hieronymos had failed. Forbes had a sharp mind, however, and when pushed didn’t hesitate to do what she’d decided was necessary. Daniel had served under RCN officers who lacked both those virtues.
“Will I be able to see this Alliance base from out there?” Forbes said. “I’ve heard that distances aren’t the same when we’re in space as they are on the ground.”
“Not yet,” said Tovera as she stepped behind Forbes to lift the torso of the air suit. “Now, your Excellency. Put your right hand into the hole first.”
“Distances–constants of space and time–in the universes through which we travel in the Matrix do differ from ours, your Excellency,” Daniel said. He’d had to blank his face to avoid staring in disbelief at such a, well, ignorant question. “But not so that we’ll be able to see US1528. We won’t do that until we extract into sidereal space after another two days sailing.”
Twenty feet down the corridor, Hogg was chatting with the Senator’s bedmate DeNardo. The fellow had a equable temper and had proven willing to lend spacers a hand when his considerable muscles would be helpful. Obviously Forbes trusted him, though she probably wasn’t one to indulge in pillow talk.
Daniel wanted DeNardo at a distance because he wasn’t very bright. While he wouldn’t consciously betray the Senator, it wouldn’t take a skilled interrogator to lead DeNardo to repeat any discussion he remembered. Hogg could keep him occupied; Tovera could help the Senator on with her suit–what was true for DeNardo was true in spades for spacers given a chance to impress their messmates; and Daniel could chat with Forbes without concern that anyone else would hear about their discussions.
“Captain Leary?” said Tovera obsequiously. “Are you ready for me to close down her Excellency’s helmet?”
“Yes,” said Daniel. He locked down his own face-plate, then patted his belt to make sure the brass communication wand was in the tooled leather scabbard which the craftsmen of Bantry had sewn for it unasked. Wearing a hard suit he could only look down by bending at the waist, which wasn’t a useful way to determine what you were wearing on a waist belt.
He smiled, gestured the Senator ahead of him into the cruiser’s forward dorsal airlock, and set the inner valve to close behind them as he followed her.
The Milton had eight locks instead of the Sissie’s four, and each chamber was big enough to hold sixteen riggers–or twenty, if they were good friends. It felt oddly wrong to Daniel that he shared such a volume with only one other person.
He grinned at the thought. He grinned at most things. On average, Adele and I smile the usual number of times in a day. That thought made him grin more broadly.
The light in the chamber began to flatten as pumps drew the air out. Forbes looked first startled, then concerned. Daniel leaned close to touch helmets–the wand would be more trouble than it was worth–and said, “This is normal, your Excellency. An atmosphere scatters light, so things look a little different. But there’s no problem.”
The telltale on the outer lock door switched from red to green. Daniel tugged the safety line attached to his belt, then clipped the end to the staple in the center of the Senator’s chest plate.
“Just shuffle your feet, your Excellency,” he said, then touched the hatch switch. The airlock swung slowly outward. Daniel put an arm around the Senator’s shoulders to guide as well as to reassure her. They stepped into the flaring wonder of the Matrix.
Forbes placed her right foot on the hull. She froze with her left foot still inside the lock chamber, staring upward. Her mouth opened and closed like that of a carp on the surface of a pond on a hot day. Daniel weighed alternatives, then half pulled, half lifted the Senator toward him so that he could cycle the airlock closed.
The cruiser was proceeding with topsails on the port and starboard antennas, and topgallants cocked at 30o on the dorsal and ventral antennas of the G and H rings. From the airlock, just aft of the dorsal antenna of the A ring, only the standing rigging and the antenna itself marred the view of the Matrix.