Dolos opens her eyes and looks around the crew cabin; once the vertigo passes, K’korz is still there. She’d been hoping against hope that they’d wake up in a universe where K’korz wasn’t the crew commander, but rationally she knows it doesn’t work that way. She’ll just keep play it cool and keep her beak shut. This is her first hyperspace jump, and with any luck at all it’ll ber her last – she’s only got 150 years to go until she retires.
But 150 years can be a long time, especially if K’korz is your crew commander.
In between heaves, Baxton Coulich muses that it’s a great way to lose weight. Not only that (heave), it could be construed as a pleasant feeling (heave). With a great deal of imagination.
He holds the bag over his mouth a moment longer. His head is still swimming from the drugs. (Fat lotta good the dope does, he thinks. But never mind, hey, it’s a buzz, and you’ve got to take your fun where you can find it.)
The red light comes on at the same moment that Witt Farrow’s voice emanates from the intercom. “Bax, gravity in two minutes.” The announcement is redundant, but Coulich is grateful for the familiar sound of his crewmate’s voice. He stows the bag in a disposal chute and floats back to his seat.
It’s not the weightlessness that’s always bothered him, so much as the uplessness and downlessness. Artificial gravity … one more thing we can thank the Gilkesh for, he muses, no telling how long it would have taken Humans to perfect the technology.
And speaking of the Gilkesh … there’s their planet outside the viewing port now, just as advertised. It won’t be his first time dealing with them, but it will be his first time on their homeworld. Given his own situation, he figures he’s bound to feel a bit like the Ancient Mariner – “water, water everywhere”, so to speak. But his adventurous side is curious, and it’s good to be reminded that he still has an adventurous side, even if he’s not exactly a kid anymore. Besides, it’ll be a good chance to get away from Earthside politics. He settles down and feels his weight come back as the ship orients itself for re-entry. Then Farrow’s voice comes over the speaker again.
“Bax, we’ve got company.”
“Remember when Command said they might be sendng another party out to meet us?” (Coulich had tried his best to forget.) “Well, they’re here.”
“Aw, shit.” Coulich lets out a long sigh. He’s going to have to be on his best behavior, maybe even dig up a clean set of duty fatigues. He finally brings himself to ask the obvious question:
“Who’d they send?”
Sometimes the winds on Voha dance, and sometimes they sing. Sometimes they scream through the canyons, around the craters, up and down the mountains. Sometimes they take physical form and build ships and cities, other times they leave their shells and laugh and ripple across the planet’s dark and rugged surface.
But this time is not like other times. Now, the winds of Voha are quiet.