Gingezel 3: Fault © Gingezel 2012
“There may be a delay installing the hyperweb link.”
Dr. Dreen Pendi, former President of Nemizcan Computing, studied the approaching power figures, keeping his comfortably lived-in face outwardly calm. Tranngol Cebron’s strong features were hard to read but the two men behind him were easy. Olan Rostin, Planet Manager, was absolutely furious. Even the chubby blond Sector Judiciary representative Trebur Auta’s impassivity was marred. Azlo Mirelle was quietly watching everyone like he was.
At least Mitra seemed to be over her crying jag. It had been too much of a shock for her, his walking into the reactor accident analysis shed with no warning. Galaxy, he wished it hadn’t been a public meeting so he could have explained properly why she couldn’t get hold of him the day she got the news that her reactor had blown up and had left Gingezel. If they had been alone, he could have said what he should have before. I love you. Marry me. But here every word and movement was being recorded.
He heard a noisy sniffle. Correct that, he hoped Mitra was over her crying jag. He stole a quick look sideways to where she was sitting at her desk. She looked incredibly tiny and vulnerable, a wad of tissue in hand, completely focussed on the approaching men. The blue green eyes he had only seen smiling were red rimmed in a too pale face. Her soft brunette hair was cropped to nothing under a shapeless blue hat.
Well, he obviously was not going to have time to feel out the situation here on Drezvir before making a few key decisions. Dreen shivered, partly from nerves, partly because he was getting cold despite wearing his warmest coat. By his standards it was winter cold here in the almost unheated shed where the reactor accident analysis was being performed. In his home city on Tranus the worst of winter was a lot of dreary rain and a couple months of rain alternating with slushy snow. But the driver that brought him from the spaceport to the tiny cluster of low slung habitats that were the mining planet’s only settlement said the windchill was -46° and the temperature would drop all day as the next storm moved in.
What had seemed to Dreen a howling gale that would flip their vehicle for sure was obviously normal to the driver. Visibility had been obscured by red dust that made him feel he was choking even inside the vehicle with a trickle tube for breathing. When the dust had let up for a minute or so, there was nothing to see but worn red stone hills, the valleys deepening into shades of purple. He still had trouble believing Mitra had spent three years here overseeing installation of her hybrid reactor. No wonder she was so hungry for all the experiences and luxuries Gingezel could offer.
Dreen shivered again. He wished he could put a cap on. There was one he used once or twice a year rolled up in his pocket. But he needed all the presence he could command right now, and he looked ridiculous in that cap. By now Dreen was used to dressing for authority when necessary. He wasn’t much on style, but he could manage authority. His salt and pepper hair had been carefully brushed once he got in from the wind, his muffler repositioned, his all weather coat firmly retied around his solid frame.
Maybe he should risk that cap. Dreen acknowledged that this time the tremors were pure nerves. He still wasn’t over seeing the mess down in the mine where the rockface being fused had collapsed when the power went. He had forced himself to go speak to each of the survivors too, before coming here to start the analysis. It had been hard, and they were strangers to him. They were Mitra’s friends. How had she managed?
Another shiver that bordered on shaking hit. In his cap he wouldn’t look as ridiculous as Tranngol, the Head of Risk and Safety at Dellmaice Power Systems, did in his bright green stocking hat with an immense pom-pom, but no one would ever dare call someone the size of Tranngol ridiculous. Olan Rostin, he noticed, was wearing only a light jacket over some kind of coveralls, and no hat. They must breed these miners tough. Rostin wasn’t a young man either. Nearing retirement age, Dreen would guess by his slight stoop and greying hair. Trebur Auta was in what looked like some kind of a regulation quilted outdoor jacket. It made his plump body look like a ball.
Azlo Mirelle, the independent auditor brought in to oversee the post accident analysis, was the one dressed like he was. Dreen had been trying unsuccessfully to get a feel for the man who would make the final technical decisions as to who was or was not at fault for the reactor overpower that had left this poor colony in such a perilous state. Azlo was mid height, perhaps two centimeters taller than he was with fair coloring and a slender build. He was dressed for the city, but a colder city, and he had a furry wedge hat on his head over thinning, well cut brown hair. Dreen guessed him to be in his late forties. He exuded an air of quiet, confident urbanity. Dreen could believe he made an excellent expert witness in court, and with two fatalities this accident was definitely headed for court.
Why the hell hadn’t he seen this coming, listened to Chett that working in the Farr Sector with its reverse jurisprudence was insane? How did you prove something as complex as their computer system providing the operator interface couldn’t have contributed to the overpower? He was looking at manslaughter charges, a death penalty. Chett, now Chett Linderson President of Nemizcan Computing as of a few hours after he left for Drezvir, had said he should be the one to come and take the risk, but Dreen couldn’t do that. Not now that he knew this was where Mitra was. He wasn’t even going to think about the trouble she was in, not with the four key men staring at him.
Dreen made his first one. Rostin got sympathy as planet manager, but in many ways a planet manager wasn’t much more powerful than the president of a galactic-wide company, and he had been that until the sign-off to Chett. Auta, as a sector bureaucrat, was the one with the real power.
“Is there a problem gentleman?” Dreen was pleased that his voice seemed steady. The slight tremor would probably be passed off as being cold.
“It is my understanding from Dr. Cebron,” Olan said, attempting to be civil because Dr. Pendi was essential to his plans for future power systems, “that you intend to install an entire hyperweb hub, Dr. Pendi? Surely you realize our resources are stretched at the moment.”
The colony did not even have enough power to heat all of the habitats, much less re-open the hydroponics complex. All of his staff that wasn’t tied up trying to get batteries and solar cells online were in the mine dealing with the rockface collapse. How was he supposed to arrange for another hyperweb? They were restricting use of their own system to emergencies only. If he had the capability to expand anything, it would be his own.
“Indeed I do, Mr. Rostin.”
Dreen was at his gravest. At least superficially Rostin was easy to read. To be a planet administrator, he had to be able to make the tough decisions, to be organized, to be capable. Right now, he was in some way threatened by the hyperweb link. He looked about ready to get really difficult, and he looked like he was good at being difficult. Dreen had no idea why he was upset though.
Feeling his way cautiously, Dreen said, “I need extensive hyperweb capability. In particular, I am heavily involved in proprietary work for the Gingezel Consortium that quite frankly would swamp a normal link like you have. Given the, ah, fragile position of your planet until you have full power restored, I couldn’t have even considered imposing on your communications resources. You need your link to the outside reserved for emergencies.”
That was something Olan had not considered. Their capacity had been completely used on a day-to-day basis before the accident. Now, between power outages and extra communications it was swamped and Cebron was stretching it even more. He could well imagine that at Nemizcan Computing in their daily work they simply assumed huge hyperweb capacities. Still, there was the question of the power supply, to say nothing of the installation itself. He had no idea if anyone here could do it if it was tricky. And he did not want to look incompetent to Dr. Pendi. Cebron should have told him so he could be prepared. He shot the big man a dirty look.
Dreen watched the indecision, then the return to displeasure. He said calmingly, “If there is any fault over your not being given advanced warning, it rests with me, not Tranngol.”
He was taking Tranngol’s lead there and using first names. That little trick, switching from honorifics to the familiar combined with dropping the news he and Tranngol were installing a hyperweb hub had given him a few precious minutes in relative privacy with Mitra while Tranngol did some fast explaining.
“I had already intended to bring a system with me when I came, and I simply offered to partition it so he would be able to stop straining your system as well.”
He shifted slightly to attack, assuming Chett’s assessment was correct that Rostin’s nose was badly out of joint with the Judiciary and its troops arriving and throwing their weight around. “I’m afraid I assumed your position was comparable to mine in industry, that you have full authority. I’d thought that getting permission was at most ten minutes in your office, explaining myself.” Dreen let his eyes slide to Trebur Auta. “If you yourself need permission ...” he let that one tail off.
Olan Rostin turned even redder if that was possible. Even his scalp with its wisps of short nondescript hair was purple.
Damn the Judiciary! The Mining Guild did not need them, or the Environmental Protection Agency. “Of course I have full authority!” At least, Olan consoled himself, Dr. Pendi assumed he did. “It is, as I said, a question of resources.”
Dreen looked at him in honest bewilderment. He wasn’t following at all. “But I thought I was helping there.”
“Yes, I’m sure that’s what you thought, and I truly appreciate your good intentions. But beside simple transmission considerations, there is power and technical support.”
“Oh!” Dreen’s face cleared and he apologized formally. “I truly am sorry you’ve misunderstood and had a needless stress on top of your own troubles.”
Olan relaxed slightly, mollified by the sincere tone, but now it was his turn to be confused.
“I brought one of the hyperweb installations we use at the hubs that are self-contained.” Dreen continued, “That includes primary and backup uninterruptible power supplies. There’s too much variation in reliability of the power grids from planet to planet, or for that matter from continent to continent for us to rely on them. I assumed that’s what I’d use here - our normal standalone system - and that was what I had packed. As for the technical support, I’ll do on-planet installation and maintenance myself. My Genie crew will handle the satellite deployment.” He smiled at Rostin, “Obviously I’d appreciate a loan of a little muscle to unload crates, but that would only be for an hour or two.”
“Of course, of course.” Olan was staring at Dreen with the same degree of incredulity as the rest.
It was Tranngol who found his voice first. “Dreen, are you saying that besides doing your own coding at times, you’re also a hands-on hardware type?” Tranngol doubted Ari had dirtied his hands in a decade, and Dreen must be just as busy running Nemizcan Computing as Ari Dellmaice was running Dellmaice Power Systems.
“Right on down to laying cable under floors in conduits if I have to.”
Bless Gali and Wayd for their patience Dreen thought. He’d been starting to feel rusty, so that had been one of the goals he’d set himself while on Gingezel, to completely install a system. He’d done it in baby steps with both his old friend Gali Nellar and the Gingezel Hub Manager Wayd Meeran coaching. They had been excellent instructors.
“And is this your usual practice - to bring your own hyperweb link somewhere with you?” Azlo asked.
“No.” Dreen shook his head. “Most planets have a hub and I’d use that. I always use our dedicated web though.” He made a face. “The commercial web is too bogged down and insecure. Why do you ask?”
“You just answered yourself. I’d never thought of it before - I’d never even thought it was feasible to move a hyperlink around. But all of a sudden I’m thinking of a - I don’t know what you call it - a base? Something at Mirelle Tyne Associates and portable links like you brought. It would save a lot of security problems.”
Dreen found himself thinking of Chett’s contest to market the nonproprietary parts of the Gingezel UltraSecure Hyperweb work. He may have just figured out how. It would be interesting to see if any of the staff came up with the same idea.
“I assume you transmit a lot of sensitive data?” Dreen added smoothly, “There can be real security enhancements done if you have your own web.”
Azlo smiled slightly. “And you’d be happy to talk to me about that sometime?”
Dreen found himself smiling back. He could like this quiet, perceptive man if his fate didn’t lay in his hands. “Always the businessman - it’s an ingrained habit. But you’d better watch me crawling around first. You may rethink the idea.” Although that could be a service too. He added, “To be honest, it’s expensive.”
Azlo smiled the same half smile. “To my clients, if I go that way.” He and Dr. Pendi could understand each other. “However, this is a digression.”
Dreen nodded. “But it did remind me of something. Before I entertain all of you crawling around, I would like a few minutes with Dr. Auta in private to discuss a security aspect of the proprietary Gingezel work.” He looked at Trebur Auta. “Your office perhaps?”
Turning back to Rostin, “Perhaps you’d be kind enough to expedite the crates being delivered?”
“Certainly.” Rostin couldn’t quite see how he’d ended up supporting this endeavor, but he couldn’t see any harm. He would like to know what Pendi wanted to discuss with Auta, but he clearly wasn’t invited. He would just check the recordings later.
“I’ll see to it.”
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