Hope is Not a Strategy: More Stories from the Four Horsemen Universe (Four Horsemen Tales Book 8) by unknow

Hope is Not a Strategy: More Stories from the Four Horsemen Universe (Four Horsemen Tales Book 8) by unknow

Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Seventh Seal Press
Published: 2019-02-26T00:00:00+00:00

* * *

Ten days later, as the shuttle burned its tiny fusion torch, slowing them at 3Gs toward the bluish planet, Schell complained constantly. “Fifteen percent doesn’t seem like nearly enough now.”

“We’ve been over this a hundred times,” Zekta replied.

“I know,” Schell said, his antennae moving feebly in the high gravity. “But if the profits are so certain, why didn’t the captain just take the ship in?”

“Because he’s a coward,” Freef said.

“The HecSha are a merc race like us,” Schell said.

“He’s a financial coward,” Zekta replied. “He’s willing to risk his own hide, but not Qelch. So we fly down instead, transmitting data back to him until he sees enough to come closer with the ship.”

“He’s hedging his bet,” Freef agreed. “If we find enough on the atmospheric pass, we can climb back to orbit and wait for them to slow and make orbit as well. If not, we boost out and spend another week making rendezvous.” He shrugged. “Fifteen percent either way, we don’t do too badly.”

“Speak for yourself,” Schell grumbled, “those couches back there are much more comfortable under high G acceleration.”

“You should have gotten pinplants,” Zekta said, “I thought all pilots had them.” He thought running a ship with implants in your brain sounded a lot better than using your four hands any day of the week. When he got home, he might get some himself; they helped on computer tasks, too. At least in the rear of the shuttle, his controls were easier to handle under the Gs.

The planet was approaching fast, and the data was looking better and better. Telescopes showed dozens, no hundreds of cities all over the planet. One continent showed large cities, but less EM radiation. Perhaps a plague or a war? He remembered the last survey data. These beings had a tumultuous history. He decided on the smaller of the two largest land masses for their pass, and told the pilot.

Two more hours of high thrust, and they hit the planet’s upper atmosphere. They were over one of the world’s great oceans. The Gs tearing at them now were from the shuttle buffeting against the atmosphere. For a few minutes they were above 7Gs. High for Goka, but tolerable. Then they were below 50 kilometers and reaching a cruising altitude. The shuttle’s hydrogen-powered engines kicked in, and they reached their cruising speed of Mach 3.

“That’s much better!” Freef said as he began analyzing clean signals.

“Indeed,” Schell agreed. “There are boats in the water. Some of them are quite large!”

“How large?” Zekta asked, entering data as fast as all four arms could work.

“I’d say 50,000 tons or more!”

The size of a battlecruiser in space, Zekta thought and his antennae quivered in anticipation. He was going to be both rich and a leader in his clan. As they flew, he was receiving dozens of radio broadcasts, storing the data in his slate, and letting its processors work. The language matrix assembler had thus far identified 11 different languages, and had enough data on three to complete a translation matrix.


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