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She indulged in a projected scene, where she just waltzed into
Altair Tower and told Siglen that she had just come in from Callisto
Station. The old dear would probably faint.
She settled her carrier at 14.30 Earth time in one of the single cradles just
outside the reception building. She had always known what the main FT&T
facility looked like, having shifted carriers, pods, and vessels of all sizes
in and out of the great landing field. But standing in the center of it,
dwarfed by the immense cube to her right that was the Headquarters building on
a field of twenty-square kilometers, gave her the proper perspective.
Cradles, scarred by long use and rough handling, surrounded her, from the
singles and doubles nearest the building to those looming on the edges of the
field that could receive the largest freighters, passenger and naval craft.
To the east she caught the glint of water.
Surrounding the field on its land sides were rank upon rank of buildings,
starting with low industrial complexes. Behind them, in seried ranks of
varying height and bulk, the business and residential towers of the largest
single metropolis of the Central Worlds receded into the distance.
The Rowan knew from childhood lessons that The City was unbroken along the
coast of the Atlantic Ocean and each decade penetrated farther inland. By the
turn of the next century, The City would inexorably engulf the entire
continent as the western habitations expanded eastward to meet it. What a
contrast to Deneb!
Beneath her feet she could feel the rumble of immense generators, and the wind
carried the high pitched whine of hard working turbines.
A light sea breeze ruffled her hair, bringing with it the taint of brine.
That was almost a welcome change from the metallic stink of air that caught at
the back of her throat. Even Callisto's recycled atmosphere was better than
this. She began to cough as the acrid air irritated her throat.
'Hey, where did you sneak in from?' asked a man in the bright orange of a
cargo handler, appearing from behind a rack of single carriers.
'I didn't sneak in,' the Rowan replied. 'I've come from Callisto with orders
to report to Reidinger.' 'Prime Reidinger to the likes of you,' he replied
with a sneer. He peered at the number of her shell and consulted a
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wrist-unit. 'Hey, your carrier 5 not listed.' 'T-4
Gollee Gren has been delegated to escort me, she replied. So much for Afra's
contention that Callisto Prime was well known.
'Talent Gren? Well, now, we'll just Suddenly his expression altered to
nervous surprise and he straightened, giving her a strange glance. His right
hand went to his ear and it was then that the Rowan noticed he was wearing a
com device. 'Yes, sir, Talent Gren. A
carrier of that ID has arrived. Yes, I'll direct her.' With a much altered
manner, he pointed toward the FT&T building. 'You go there.
Talent Gren's waiting for you. And you don't keep Talents waiting. Not
around here you don't.' He jerked his head toward the airy shell of concrete
and plasglas that extruded from this facade of the vast opaque cube of the
Federal Telepathic and Teleportation
Agency.
From the sides of the great cube she could see transport cables stringing out
to the edges of the great portfield and the dewdrop vehicles speeding along
them.
Housed within Earth Prime Station were the administrative and training
facilities of Federal Telepath and Teleport, and somewhere inside was
Reidinger. The size of the place was daunting. Her whimsical notion to
surprise Reidinger would tax her ingenuity. She ought not to have dismissed
Afra's mental reservations so airily.
How had Jeff got in to see Rowan? She pressed her lips together:
that man could charm his way anywhere in the galaxy. But if he could, so
could she.
The Rowan straightened her spine, rejecting the grandeur and sheer size of
Earth Prime Station. Would Reidinger be as grand face-to-face?
How truly realistic had that hologram cube been? She squashed notions of
inadequacy, and impudence, and walked as briskly as she could, considering the
difference in gravity between Callisto and
Terra, toward the shell entrance.
As she neared the entrance, she saw a lone figure waiting by the door, highly
visible in the deep crimson suit he wore. Suddenly she wished she had taken
time to plan this expedition, for she was in rather drab work clothing.
So much for impulsive decisions. Perhaps. But she was here on
Earth and that was a positive action and long overdue.
The central door panel of the plasglas facade whooshed open and the man
stepped forward smiling, hand extended. She battened down her shields.
'Good afternoon, Angharad Gwyn.' The Rowan took a second to recognize her
birth name. That was clever of Afra. Had she actually told him or had he
accessed that discovery from her mind? Sometimes she wondered if Afra had not
improved beyond a T-4. 'I'm Gollee Gren.
Afra of Callisto requested that I escort you to the Prime's offices.' Smiling,
she shook the offered hand and deflected the tentative peek which the physical
contact allowed. She permitted him to glimpse an inexperienced mind awed by
its present surroundings. In return she extracted a good deal more from the
T-4's mind.
'I appreciate your escort, Gollee Gren,' she said in a breathless manner. 'I
had not realized how massive the installation is.' He hesitated, holding her
hand longer than the courtesy required, and he frowned slightly. 'Have we met
before?' 'I doubt it. This is my first trip to Earth.' 'I see. Well, let's
get inside, shall we? That air's bad for the lungs,' Gren said with an
ingratiating smile as he gestured for them to proceed. 'I've always been in
Afra's debt,' he went on, 'but I'm not at all sure that I can assist you very
much, no matter what Afra may have hinted.
Especially today with all that's happened.' He led her to a bank of shafts,
set in the rear wall, on one side of the main exits. 'Once we've got your
Security Clearance,' and from his mind she neatly picked all she needed to
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know about that procedure, 'I can, of course, escort you to the Prime's
office.' 'I'm properly cleared,' she said and showed him the Top Security
Clearance badge which she had just procured for herself. 'Afra took care of
everything.' She stepped into the first vacant lift.
'Oh?' Gollee was amazed. 'I didn't realize well, never mind. But even with
that, it's still not going to be easy to see Prime Reidinger today. You'll
have to be content with an appointment for another day.'
Then he placed his hand on the palm plate marked 'Restricted' and the door
closed and the lift rose. [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]