(continued from above)
Simon followed him out. On the wall under the plaque announcing the medical bay
someone had crudely drawn a skull and cross bones, with the legend, "Here be
"Must have done that when I took that freighter crew to the cafe. I'll get a
detail to clean it off at once, but I guess the kids know where you are." His
grin was suddenly cut off by a cry, and they all turned to look out over the
promenade. Two children had leapt from the promenade's upper deck, holding onto
a steel hawser and were swinging across towards the other side. Crude swords in
their teeth with muffled cries from their mouths they hurtled out into the
space between the decks.
"Jimmy!!!" screamed Nurse Heath, and Simon vaguely made out the boy from the
previous evening, and Miles, the one from that morning. They never made it
across, the hawser's swing fell well short, and they began to swing back. The
exultant cries ceased, they were going to swing between the upper deck and the
floor a good thirty feet below until they came to a dead stop. Simon was
running, the security man on his heels screaming for engineering that he needed
the grav-plating turned down on the promenade, now, and that was NOW! and the
response that he needed authorization for that. The upper deck was supported by
a framework of steel bulkheads and wires that were strung out over the "roof"
of the deck above. The boys must have cut one of them in order to make that
swing out, figuring that they would be able to reach the other side, forgetting
that would probably not have enough inertia to make it to the other side, and
now they were going to dangle over the promenade floor.
Simon tore at the sleeve of his uniform, wrapped the ends around his hands and
had climbed over the retaining rail, grabbed hold of the cable that led to the
ground floor, before a hand grabbed him, the security guard, "Doc, where the
hell you going"
"Fastest way down," and he jerked the arm away, and was gone. Even through the
material he could feel the heat of the steel hawser, he was going to have burnt
hands. Damn, and he hit the lower decking with a hard thud, forgetting his own
advice to Miles that morning, and didn't bend his knees. In twenty seconds his
"boring" day had changed.
He was limping through the crowd. It occurred to him that he hadn't even a
medical first aid kit with him, and not the vaguest idea of why he had just
slid down a steel hawser except that speed was essential. Too late now to worry
about it. He hit his communicator, that security man had had the right idea.
Charteris:+Tap+Charteris to Engineering.We need that deck plating off now
Engineering:+Tap+ Sorry we can't do it not for such a small section. If we turn
it off we'll have everyone floating away, and when we turn it back
on............ also I require authorization to.......+
Charteris:You got it. I'm calling this a medical emergency.
Engineering:+Look, we can't just turn off the one section, we;d have to turn it
Charteris:Well,if you can't turn it off what can you do?
Engineering:+The only variable grav plating in the area is the fountain, it's
higher than anywhere else because of the water.+
The fountain, and then Simon saw the figure of a security cadet walking towards
Charteris:Turn it up
Charteris:They're close to it, it might be enough, and falling in water's
better than steel decking
Engineering:+ Sorry, but I need authorization to do........+
Charteris:This is a clear medical emergency. That's my call, and my
authorization. Charteris Alpha-One-Nine-Seven. You are ordered to turn up the
fountain grav plate, right now.
Charteris:Cadet, that's an order! Now!
Engineering:+OK. We can turn it up half a g, and that's it, and I'm calling my
Simon watched the fountain stream flatten out, and looked up at the hanging
boys, the noise around him was tremendous. Did they have communicators? He
hadn't seen Miles with one.
Charteris:+Tap+ Charteris to James Heath
Nothing. Wait, damn this noise was that a crackle of an open link. Of course he
couldn't respond he had his hand round the rope.
Charteris: Jimmy, if you can hear me, don't worry about responding. I want you
to start swinging the hawser again, toward the fountain. Towards the fountain.
Do it now.
He left the link open, as Cypher finally reached him."What the hell is going
on? I see you slide down that hawser like a lunatic and those two kids are up
there, " he said pointing. As they both looked the hawser was swinging again,
toward's the fountain.
Charteris: Good Jimmy, very good. They have turned up the grav plates in that
area it should draw you in. Let go when I tell you.
Cypher looked at the swinging boys. "They are slipping down the wire you know.
Probably make it easier for them to swing that hawser." Cypher looked at the
fountain, back at the boys, and his face suddenly became hard. "Damn, the
central column," and he was running. Simon looked too and realized why. It
looked pretty solid, if the boys hit that instead of the admittedly shallow
water they would be broken like dolls. He limped after Cypher.
Engineering Duty Officer:+Tap+DO to Charteris: What's the nature of a medical
emergency that requires increased power to deck plating?
Charteris banged his commbadge.
Charteris:+Tap+ I need this Comm badge free. Be ready at my signal to turn it
back down to normal.
Engineering:+No go Doc. We're restoring it to normal now.+
Charteris:Wait for my order. Look call Ronnikov for confirmation, Now standby.
Charteris:+tap+ Jimmy, few seconds more, just a few more. Hold on be ready to
jump. Tell Miles to be ready too.
Simon had reached the fountain. A hand reached down from the parapet and
hoisted him up.
"Careful Charteris, the grav pull is fierce."
The two men tottered against the pull of the gravity plating. Simon and Cypher
turned to face the boys now swinging towards them.
Charteris:Last time now Jimmy. Tell Miles to be ready, you've got to go
The hawser swung back, then started to move towards them, faster, faster and
then just before the top of its swing
Charteris: NOW, Jimmy, NOW+Tap+
Charteris:+Tap+Charteris to Engineering. Plating to normal, NOW!
The boys tumbled through the air towards the two men, then the fountain's
gravity field returned to normal, and Cypher and Charteris fell forward and met
the oncomming boys with a hard jarring shock and then were thrown back into the
Simon's head erupted from the water, coughing, choking on it. Beside him
Cypher, sitting upright, looking a little dazed, but OK. The two boys sitting
in front of them looked at each and then with a whoop of glee embraced and
screamed like lunatics. A good deal of the water had escaped from the fountain,
to shower the crowd, but there seemed to be a lot of cheering going on.
Simon shook Cypher a little, "You OK?"
The straight faced Cadet nodded, then mumbled, "Fine."
Simon punched him in the arm, "What's it like? Being a hero?"
Cypher looked at him. "Being a hero requires you to be a punch bag? And to be
sitting, soaking wet in the middle of a public place?"
"Only on a duty shift"
Cypher looked at him, and for the first time used Simon's first name, "Simon,
why are you smiling like that? We're cold, wet and bruised, and your smiling.
and I'm sure your hands must be hurting you. You haven't taken them out of the
water yet, and your grinning like a lunatic"
Ronnikov:+Tap+ Ronnikov to Charteris. What the hell is going on up there. What
medical emergency requires the increase in gravitational intensity on the
Charteris:+Tap+Charteris here. Sorry sir. Put engineering to you to buy time.
I'll have a preliminary report filed on your desk in an hour, sir. And sir,
please thank engineering for me for their assistance. Charteris Out.+Tap+
Simon looked at Cypher. "Sorry, can't make that holosuite appointment today. I
think I'll be filing reports for a while. But, if your free tomorrow I have a
Nausicaan calisthenics program you might like to try."
" Simon, the smile?"
"Well, about a minute ago I was just beginning to get a little bored with this
place, but I think I'm going to like it here after all."
Cadet Doctor Simon Charteris