Gingezel 2: Bad to Worse © Gingezel 2012
As the Genie hurled up from Candi Dua through the Gingezel atmosphere. Mitra had never been subjected to so many g’s. There was good reason why the Genie design made the best hyperspatial racing yacht in the galaxy! Her tiny frame was forced back into a seat designed for passengers of average size. Usually she cursed the problem, but this time she was unaware of the discomfort bordering on pain. It didn’t matter, nothing mattered. She was going back to Drezvir.
She’d sworn she would never visit that rock pit of a mining planet again. Mitra had been proud of her work there, proud of her hybrid reactor. She had hated every minute there though, hated the place, hated being an Outsider.
Talk about false pride. The damn thing blew up! Dr. Mitra Kael, Power Systems Engineer. Right. In a quiet way Mitra had been so pleased to be having her own design implemented. Her design was going change the colonists lives, give them a level of comfort they had never dreamed of. Sure. The reality was that the system blew and took the geothermal energy base out with it. The colonists who were going to be so much better off were now fighting for their lives to survive a red blizzard on backup power.
It was all her fault. Tranngol and Elin from Risk and Safety were telling her not to jump to conclusions, but Ari was right. She’d messed up. Not just messed up, killed people.
Now that she couldn’t keep busy organizing her departure there was no way to hide from the facts. Blayne and Max were dead. Blayne, Lilla’s husband, sweet Tessa’s father. The limited report said that the same mining crew she had worked with to install the geothermal units were fusing an unstable rock wall when the power went. Blayne and Max were directly under it. Galaxy! She hope the rest of them weren’t still in the mine.
Mitra tried to raise her hands to cover her face but the webbing held them immobile. She blinked large unfocused blue eyes. A tear escaped, then another until they formed a river on each cheek. Her dark hair framed a face that was ashen.
Where was Dreen? She needed him here with her. No, of course, not here. He had nothing to do with Drezvir. She needed to have seen him, told him. In her mind she saw him, so comfortable and loving. He had never said he loved her, but his eyes did. His appearance wasn’t anything special, medium height, medium build, lived-in face, dark hair already graying. But their time together had been so special. Why had she kept it like that, an isolated bubble in time? She didn’t even know how to reach him once he left the Crescent Bay hotel. She should have left a message, but she couldn’t do it. How did you say something like I killed some people to a blank screen. Dreen! Sobs started to keep her tears company and the shaking was back.
“Dreen,” the oriental man at the desk called when they were about halfway across the opulent lobby. “Mitra’s been calling for you every five minutes.” He turned back to the elderly couple who were checking in.
“Every five minutes?” Joran raised his expressive eyebrows. “She sounds serious. You’d better be careful my friend. You’re one of the last surviving bachelors.” There was more than a hint of teasing in his brown eyes and on his black face.
“Serious is fine by me,” Dreen said as a smile spread across his comfortable, slightly rugged face that was showing a bit of color from the sun.
He was in a surprisingly good mood for a man whose software system had just been destroyed by a hacker. His back ache from the all-nighter spent trying to solve the problems had eased by the time they reached the harbor-side restaurant, and they had lingered over a long lunch of delicious white fish. They had sat and talked about Bojo, although Joran had skated around what Bojo wanted and simply said that he would have Bojo come talk to Dreen when Dreen woke up from his nap.
Then they had talked about the composition software Dreen was designing for Joran, and Joran’s plans for turning the M single he had written for Mitra and Maillie into an album. It had been so good to see Joran looking the way he used to, lean, black, handsome, confident. The Galactic pop superstar, not a drugged wreck. Apparently the album was almost finished. Now that Joran was over his block, all the music that had been tumbling around in his head was insisting on being captured. The album would be a total departure for him and the Anton Band, consisting exclusively of romantic lyrical ballads like the love song M, with nothing experimental. After that, Joran had said he’d see.
Reluctant to leave, they had continued talking about nothing in particular. That had taken them through probably too much wine for midday, but Dreen was headed for sleep and wine never seemed to bother Joran. Then just because it was such a gorgeous day they had walked even further down the harbor, watching the half a dozen or so sail boats heading out into the lake. Dreen had to admit that although he should be viewing the hacker attack as a disaster, or at least as a serious problem, he couldn’t remember a recent time when his work had been such fun.
Alone with Joran in the elevator Dreen said, “You know, I almost proposed the other night.”
“Almost?” Joran prompted.
“You know how it is. The mood was right, and I was thinking about it, but I hesitated. To be honest, I was afraid she’d say no. Then the waiter came along and the mood changed.” The elevator door opened and they stepped out. “There hasn’t been a right time since.”
“Then make one now, you bloody fool!” Joran said gruffly. “I’ll get lost.”
Dreen shook his head. “It won’t take me ten minutes to show you what I mean on that interface.”
With the Nemizcan tool kit templates he could mockup the essential features of a design in minutes. In this case, Joran was looking for composition software where he could take advantage of his synesthesia and paint music.
“I’ve got a suspicion the palette approach we usually use won’t give you the speed and fluidity you want creating shapes, but it’s easier to show you why. Why don’t you take a drink out on the balcony? Then,” Dreen smiled, “you can be the first to congratulate us - or help me finish getting drunk.”
Dreen didn’t really expect Mitra to say no. And Joran was right. He’d been stalling. The only thing wrong was that Mitra wasn’t here, and they couldn’t celebrate the way he’d like to. But he’d fly her here, and they’d fix that.
Joran hesitated. He wasn’t sure he want to be around for something personal like a proposal, and definitely not this proposal. But he did want that interface finished, and he seemed to temporarily have Dreen’s full attention. He shrugged and they stepped into the opulent apricot and green room that served as Dreen’s home until the Nemizcan Computing’s UltraSecure Hyperweb was on Gingezel. He got a mineral water from the bar fridge, and headed for the balcony.
Dreen waited until the sliding door closed, then put the call through. He knew he had a stupid smile on his face, but it all felt so right. He knew nothing could go wrong.
The elderly woman at the desk answered, not Mitra in her room. “I think Miss Kael has been trying to reach me?”
“Oh, Dr. Pendi. She’s gone.”
Well, almost nothing could go wrong. Sightseeing must have finally won. He couldn’t blame her. Depending on when she started calling, she could have been trying for a while. They hadn’t hurried lunch.
Dreen said tolerantly, “Did she say when she’d be back?” Mitra had flatly refused to get an on-planet number for her compad so he had to call the hotel room to reach her.
“You don’t understand. She checked out.”
To Dreen it had always been a ridiculous cliché, but his world turned upside down. She wasn’t calling to say she loved him. She was calling to say goodbye. But that was impossible. He remembered their loving as well as sexy farewell, his whispering to the half asleep Mitra from the doorway that he loved her. It was the first time he’d kept a pilot waiting on the runway. She couldn’t have left him.
The woman was watching his face. They had seemed like such a nice happy couple. She was sure the trouble had nothing to do with Dr. Pendi. She gave a fast glance first at the concierge’s desk, then to the manager’s office. But everyone was busy.
She said hurriedly, “I shouldn’t be saying, but a secure sealed call came from off-planet, and she booked a Genie to leave right away. She had me calling you every five minutes until she left for the spaceport. She was very upset.”
“When did she leave?”
“Thirty-five or forty minutes ago.”
She left while he was laughing with Joran. Dreen felt sick. They’d been fooling around, and Mitra had been facing some crisis alone. She needed him, he was sure of that, and he hadn’t been there for her. And now she was gone.
“Did she leave a message or forwarding address?” He was hoping against hope, but he had to ask.
“I’m sorry Dr. Pendi.”
“Well, thank you for your help.” Dreen was preparing to break the connection, but the woman spoke quickly.
“I’m sure this isn’t the time to ask, but will you be wanting your room kept until you return?”
Return? What for? “No,” Dreen said curtly. “Could you have housekeeping pack my things and ship them here?” He had only packed a bare minimum in his attaché - underwear, pajama bottoms, an extra shirt. He’d planned on a quick round of damage control then returning to Mitra.
“Certainly. A courier will have them there later today.” She broke off.
For a long moment Dreen start blankly at the space where the woman had been, then he pushed himself to his feet, needing the help of both palms flat on the table. Reluctantly Dreen walked to the balcony door. Joran was leaning out over the railing watching something going on on the terrace below. He didn’t move as the door opened.
Dreen spoke to his back. “She’s gone.”
Joran stood for a long moment not seeing the children on the terrace below. They were the same ones he had played with yesterday, and the little girl with her short brown pigtails and bright blue eyes had turned a few moments earlier, seen him and waved. Now all he could do was hear the words ‘she’s gone’.
Mitra had left Dreen! That meant she was free, that Dreen didn’t have prior claim any more. He felt an intense, primitive surge of emotion, and stood there bent over the railing trying to compose himself before turning around. It seemed to Joran that it took forever to calm that wash of emotion, to be able to see the lake, the terrace, the laughing children. When he dared, he straightened up and turned around, his eyes searching Dreen’s face. His friend looked twenty years older, and his skin was a sick color. Comparing Dreen to how he had looked half an hour ago Joran couldn’t stand it.
“I don’t know. She got an urgent off-planet call and booked a Genie. She left for the spaceport thirty-five or forty minutes ago.”
“Then she might still be there.” Joran shouldered Dreen aside and ran through the doorway.
Dreen didn’t have the energy to come back inside. What did it matter? She was gone. Behind his back he heard Joran muttering to himself with increasing impatience as he was shunted from person to person. Apparently he finally hit success.
“Miss Kael? Yes she booked with us earlier today.”
“I need to speak to her.”
“I’m very sorry,” Kristina, the woman who had handled the departure, said, “but the flight has departed.”
“So, where’s it going?” Contacting the Genie class of hyperspatial yacht mid route was tricky. Joran knew that from his own. Most pilots refused calls. He’d just get a runaround if he asked her to try that.
“I’m sorry, sir.” Kristina gave the poorly groomed T-shirted man the benefit of the doubt with a ‘sir.’ After all this was Gingezel. “I’m not allowed to give out that information.”
“Bloody hell you’re not. I -”
That outburst brought Dreen around with a snap. “Joran!”
Joran gave him an indifferent look and returned his attention to the fresh faced young woman whose was freezing into ice. Appearance had him mistaking Kristina’s age and authority.
Kristina had had plenty of experience in dealing with difficult members of the public. This one she judged as touchy at best, impossible when he wanted to be, and currently very upset. She was glad he was elsewhere and calling her, not directly across from her at her desk.
“Listen you little idiot. I want to talk to your superior and -” He’d get the little bitch fired. What the hell were they doing hiring someone like that? He hadn’t set this planet up to run like this. Besides being furious, as the creator of the Gingezel consortium Joran had strong ideas about exactly what the visitor experience on this luxury planet should be like.
“Shut up Joran!” Dreen was close enough now for Joran to have to notice. He took hold of a shoulder and roughly pulled Joran out of the seat at the console and took it himself. He spoke to the icy mask. “I apologize for my friend’s behavior. My name is Dr. Dreen Pendi, President of Nemizcan Computing. Given the treatment you just had, I don’t expect you to accept that at face value. May I transmit my credentials?”
The woman’s head inclined slightly. Dreen pressed his wrist cuff into the appropriate spot, and waited while his identity and professional credentials were transmitted and the woman read them. The glacier thawed slightly.
Kristina liked her current Nemizcan interface. There had been some problems with it when the spaceport introduced the Genie service. The man she understood was actually going to run the Gingezel Hub came all the way from Crescent Bay to fix them himself. He had said his name was Wayd and apologized that he had meant to send someone competent but they had called in sick so he hoped he remembered how to do interface design, not just boss people around. That had just been self deprecation though, Wayd had done an excellent job. She’d heard Nemizcan Computing was improving the Gingezel hyperweb with a new ultra-secure version, and when she asked Wayd, he had told her about it. It would really make her job easier.
So this was the man who ran the company. Kristina looked at Dreen with some interest. He was a pleasant enough looking businessman, early middle-age she’d judge by the greying hair, but not feeling well.
She said politely enough, “How can I help you Dr. Pendi?”
“I really do need to contact Miss Kael as soon as possible. I appreciate you can’t say where she’s going, but can you take a message and relay it if you should be in contact with her?”
There was no sense asking the woman to send a message to wherever Mitra was going. She would refuse that as she had refused to give Mitra’s destination.
Kristina thought. “I don’t see why not, but you know a Genie rarely checks in with either its departure port or destination port mid run.”
“Yes, but if by chance they do, it will save me time. Just tell her Dreen Pendi of Nemizcan Computing needs to talk to her right away, and if she can’t reach me easily on Gingezel, my executive assistant at Head Office will know how to contact me at anytime.” And Lindy would too. Dreen wasn’t going to make any more mistakes of that sort.
It was a harmless enough message. Kristina repeated the warning it would probably never be delivered, and disconnected wondering what it was really about. She sighed. It wasn’t even lunchtime yet, and it was looking like one of those days. Besides that nut case just now, she owed personal favors to two caterers and four chefs for depleting their supplies to fill the Genie Miss Kael was travelling on. And, if she wanted life to stay reasonably pleasant she’d better start making those chefs happy before it was lunch time and they had unhappy diners on their hands.
“She could have told you where Mitra was going.” Joran was angry, leaning against the wall and staring down at Dreen.
“No she could not,” Dreen said shortly. “If it had been you on the Allegro, and I had been some singularly unpleasant member of the press you were dodging, what would you want her to do?” He took the sullen silence as agreement on the point. “There are better ways.”
Joran brightened. “You’re right. If she didn’t get hold of you, she probably called home, assuming that isn’t where she’s going. You can just call there and get her folks to tell you where she’s headed.”
“If I knew where home was.” Dreen was talking to his shoes.
“You don’t know?” Joran was incredulous. “What the hell have you two been doing? Never mind, cancel that question. I can guess.” He rubbed his hand across his face. “Okay, what about the hotel here? They’ve got to have her home address. It’s the first place she stayed at and -”
Dreen cut across him, “And they are no more going to give it out than the spaceport, for exactly the same reason!”
“C’mon Dreen.” Joran’s expressive face showed his incredulity. “You’ve been living and working here for months. These guys know you. All you have to do is ask.”
“I will not take advantage of that Joran, anymore than you will take advantage of the fact you own this planet. Besides,” he added hastily after looking at Joran’s face, “would you want them to tell another guest who you were and give them your private address just because that guest had been around long enough to become familiar to the front desk?”
Dreen was being impossible.
“Don’t you want to find her?” The look of pain on Dreen’s face made Joran want to bite back his words.
“Of course I do. And I will. Have you ever heard of databases?” he asked sarcastically.
Joran actually smiled. “Oh, I see. The Gingezel UltraSecure Hyperweb man isn’t going to admit to the locals he hasn’t got around to finding out his lady’s contact information. He’s just going to quietly pull it from the database. Nice move,” he added approvingly.
“No by galaxy he is not!” Dreen exploded. “How the hell could I pretend to be providing a secure - I repeat secure - hyperweb if I have no more morals than that myself? And, assuming morals are a totally irrelevant issue to you,” he glared at Joran, “let me remind you that such information will be on the old Gingezel hyperweb, not on the Nemizcan one and it will be stored with high security. They will routinely monitor for unauthorized insider or outsider access, report it, and probably figure out who it was. You already have a good system and good staff. How the hell do I explain my breach to Ralin?” Ralin Heusgar was the head of Gingezel Security.
“Tell him you’re in love!”
He would kill Dreen in about another minute. Joran stalked out to the balcony and took a steadying breath. He couldn’t get Dreen’s face out of his mind. He wondered if he’d made any more sense when he first heard about Maillie’s death. He remembered walking offstage mid-concert and the flight to Dreen. Probably not. He went back in.
“I’m sorry," Joran said simply. “What are you going to do?”
“Use the legitimate databases.”
“Right.” Joran forgot he was humoring Dreen. “There can’t be more than a few million M. Kael’s out there. You want to die of old age first?”
“Have you forgotten I started my career with an involuntary stint of database management? It’s not that impossible a job.”
Dreen was totally sincere. He already had about half of the filters he needed worked out in his mind. Of course there were the obvious ones of age and sex. He would also try putting in a minimum level of education and income bracket, if he could remember the bases that were likely to be publicly accessible and more than just glorified address books. Just by her conversation he was sure Mitra had a college or university degree, but he’d better not bound that one too tightly. If he could access bases with physiological data, her height would really thin the sample down. But with everyone’s identifying characteristics on their wrist cuffs, stored physiological data was pretty much restricted to medical bases, and they had some of the tightest access justification requirements around.
Now, who else might collect that kind of data? He knew he was drifting off the point, but he didn’t care. He had to keep thinking, thinking about anything at all. He wouldn’t want to use a commercial search engine for these volumes of data either. What would they have back on Tranus at Head Office?
Joran had been standing there watching him. “You’re punchy,” he said bluntly, “and even though I am trying to help - believe it or not - all I’m doing is making you angry. Do you want me to clear out, or is there some grunt work a layman can do on the database stuff?”
Dreen focused on the impersonal hotel room, and realized with brutal impact why Joran had headed for his place when Maillie died. “Yeah. Start with working out as many spellings as you can for Kael, and include all of the dialects with strange spellings I wouldn’t think of. Just because we’re all educated and have been speaking StanGalLan doesn’t mean it’s her first language. It isn’t yours.”
StanGalLan was the common language of business between planets and fluency was a requirement for any university degree in the galaxy. So it had been adopted as the primary language on a lot of planets, including Dreen’s home planet Tranus and Gingezel. Joran however was from Laurion and his first language was Latino.
“Also, think about whether or not she had an accent you can place. It would give an idea of what sector to start searching in and your ear is better than mine.”
Joran nodded, but he stopped at the bar fridge on his way to the table and opened the door. He gave it’s contents an assessing look. He’d had a lot of chances to explore the possibilities in the bar fridges of luxury hotels. He selected a small bottle of liqueur usually used a few drops at a time to flavor other drinks. The manufacturers used a singularly interesting combination of mood altering herbs, and stopped just short of legal problems with the drug boys. It should see Dreen over the shock, and if he wasn’t paying attention, and Joran was betting he would not be, well down the road to out cold. Joran poured a solid double. For himself he poured a splash of his favorite rum derivative. He’d had it stocked in his and Dreen’s bars. Then he added a lot of mix. One of them had to stay sober. Joran walked back to the table and handed Dreen the drink.
Dreen was already lost in something he was entering in his compad’s notebook and took the glass automatically.
“Thanks.” Dreen took a drink, made a minor face without comment and went back to muttering to himself.
Joran took a sip of his own, and settled in a chair, alternating his attention between watching Dreen and thinking about languages. When the level in Dreen’s glass was noticeably lower and his color improved, he focused on Kael.
This exclamation brought Dreen back to the hotel room with a start.
Joran slapped his compad down on the table with dangerous force. “Do you know how many ways there are to spell Kael? There’s a C A L E , K A L E , C A I L, C A I L L E, C A Y L E -”
The spelling lesson was interrupted by the tone of the communications center.
Hell. Dreen swore. He must have forgotten to turn his call tone on again. Sure it was Mitra, Dreen hurried over to the unit.
“Dreen, you have an off planet call. Can you take it?”
The pathetically eager look on Dreen’s face told Joran what he was thinking: they’re between the first and second hyperspatial jumps and she’s calling. Dreen had used that time interval on his commercial class yacht to call Joran often enough. But Genies didn’t work that way. Every precious second was used by the crew to calculate the position for the next jump, then to shift to that position. Communication tied up both them and their equipment. Used to racing, the pilots all went flat out from one end of the run to the other. A call from a Genie mid route meant one thing - disaster. He judged the level in Dreen’s glass and prayed to who or whatever he had been praying to a lot these last few years that it was someone at Nemizcan.
Science fiction by the Canadian husband and wife scientist author team Donald S. Hall, PhD., and Judi Suni Hall, PhD.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the authors’ imaginations or are used fictitiously. The science fiction is set centuries in the future, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental
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