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her? she wondered. Was he disappointed in not encountering some stoned
harridan? Not that his opinion of her mattered.
?So you've lost contact.?She feigned indifference. ?So?"
Burke looked down at his slim-line, secured briefcase. ?It has to be
checked out. Fast. All communications are down. They've been down too
long for the interruption to be due to equipment failure. Acheron's been
in business for years. They're experienced people, and they have
appropriate backup systems. Maybe they're working on fixing the problem
right now. But it's been no-go dead silence for too long. People are
getting nervous. Somebody has to go and check it out in person. It's the
only way to quiet the nervous Nellies.
?Probably they'll correct the trouble while the ship's on its way out
and the whole trip will be a waste of time and money, but it's time to
set out.?
He didn't have to elaborate. Ripley had already gotten where he was
going and returned. She went into the kitchen and brought out the
coffees. While Gorman sipped his cup of brew she began pacing. The den
was too small for proper pacing, but she tried, anyway. Burke just waited.
?No,?she said finally. ?There's no way.?
?Hear me out. It's not what you think.?
She stopped in the middle of the floor and stared at him in disbelief.
?Not what I think? Not what I think! I don't have to think, Burke. I was
reamed, steamed, and dry-cleaned
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by you guys, and now you want me to go back out there! Forget it!?
She was trembling as she spoke. Gorman misinterpreted the reaction as
anger, but it was pure fear. She was scared. Gut-scared and trying to
mask it with indignation. Burke knew what she was feeling but pressed
on, anyway. He had no choice.
?Look,?he began in what he hoped was his best conciliatory manner, ?we
don't know what's going on out there. If their relay satellite's gone
out instead of the ground transmitter, the only way to fix it is with a
relief team. There are no spacecraft in the colony. If that's the case,
then they're all sitting around out there cursing the Company for not
getting off its collective butt and sending out a repair crew pronto. If
it is the satellite relay, then the relief team won't even have to set
foot on the planet itself. But we don't know what the trouble is, and if
it's not the orbital relay, then I'd like to have you there. As an
adviser. That's all.?
Gorman lowered his coffee. ?You wouldn't be going in with the troops.
Assuming we even have to go in. I can guarantee your safety.?
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She rolled her eyes and glanced at the ceiling.
?These aren't your average city cops or army accompanying us,
Ripley,?Burke said forcefully. ?These Colonial Marines are some tough
hombres, and they'll be packing state-of-the-art firepower. Man plus
machine. There's nothing they can't handle. Right, Lieutenant?"
Gorman allowed himself a slight smile. ?We're trained to deal with the
unexpected. We've handled problems on worse worlds than Acheron. Our
casualty rate for this kind of operation hovers right around zero. I
expect the percentage to improve a little more after this visit.?
If this declaration was intended to impress Ripley, it failed miserably.
She looked back to Burke.
?What about you? What's your interest in this?"
?Well, the Company cofinanced the colony in tandem
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with the Colonial Administration. Sort of an advance against mineral
rights and a portion of the long-term developmental profits. We're
diversifying, getting into a lot of terraforming. Real estate on a
galactic scale. Building better worlds and all that.?
?Yeah, yeah,?she muttered. ?I've seen the commercials.?
?The corporation won't see any substantial profits out of Acheron until
terraforming's complete, but a big outfit like that has to consider the
long term.? Seeing that this was having no effect on his host, Burke
switched to another tack. ?I hear you're working in the cargo docks over
Portside?"
Her reply was defensive, as was to be expected. ?That's right. What
about it?"
He ignored the challenge. ?Running loaders, forklifts, suspension
grates; that sort of thing?"
?It's all I could get. I'm crazy if I'm going to live on charity all my
life. Anyway, it keeps my mind off... everything. Days off are worse.
Too much time to think. I'd rather keep busy.? [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]