Chapter 7 continued
Not long afterwards I was slumped on a chair almost lying on the table before me, huddled over a steaming mug of coffee inhaling the steam rising from it. I made happy noises.
'So.' the woman that lived in the pair of boots said after watching for a while. 'To what do I owe the honour of being assaulted by drunk maniac in the middle of the night.'
I was about to answer but she was just getting started.
'A drunk on drugs and wet like something that the cat dragged out of a storm drain. And.' Dramatic pause. Suggesting a humiliating punchline. 'Someone who seems to be training for the projectile vomiting championship.' OK that's a bit awkward. 'All over my entrance stairway corridor and in the end bathroom.' Shame strode boldly into the room and pinched me in the cheek, telling me how much I had grown. I let my glances wander slowly towards where the woman sat, but then they reached her slightly trembling fist got scared and hid behind the coffee mug again.
'Look. I'm very sorry about that. I... I will clean up the mess. I promise. But it...' She just laughed without humour.
'You were knocked out for almost 12 hours. I had to do it myself and I was tempted using you as a rag.'
Silence settled over us.
I knew that it was my turn to say something but what did you say in such a situation? I tried to sip the coffee. It was still hot and very strong. It tasted almost real. My body reluctantly accepted it. I tried again to look at my host. There were the piercing eyes from the entrance. Almost black in a pale face. The mouth a smirk.
I gritted my teeth against the drills working their way into my skull when ever I spoke.
'Let me try again. Hello. My name is Hamilton Kane. I am a conductor. I came here because you can help me with something that I have to do.'
'And what would that be?'
'I have to enter a terraformer.'
'Why should I help you with that. I'm an architect.'
'You need to work on your cover Mrs. Petrova.' I heroically lifted my head to meet her hard gaze straight on. It was like meeting a train straight on.
'I beg your pardon...' her voice carried enough ice to turn a desert into a clever metaphor.
"If you want people to think that you are innocent then you should say 'How could I help you' and not 'Why should I...'" suddenly her pet the rifle was on the table its muzzle hungry for my life.
'You test my patience Kane. Talk. Talk in a way that makes me want to kill you less.' her look were what a hit-man's look wanted to be when it grew up.
'You were recommended to me by Bryce Franklin. He told me that you were the person I had to talk to about terraformers.'
'Franklin is an idiot.'
'Yes his knowledge seems rather limited.' I had read in a women's magazine at my hair-dresser once that people liked it a lot when you simply rephrased what they had just said.
'Absolutely. He is always talking about stats, theories, stupid numbers. God that man is irritating.' Wow. Thank you Solar Lady!
'Wisearse but without any grounding in reality.'
'Absolutely. He always quotes his stupid manuals. And quote official top secret documentation unquote. As if that would make his regurgitated book knowledge more true. It's simply not true. Terraformers are immensely complex machines. Probably the most complicated machines humanity has ever build. Once you set such a system in motion things change. You have to adapt to the reality of the machines. If you just follow the fucking handbook you will end up with a disaster on your hands. I mean just look what happened with Harumadis in the European sector in Old Town. A bunch of suits with handbooks and regulations and quote maximum yield for minimum expense unquote strategies walk right in and try to dictate their ideas upon reality. In the end the fucking terraformer broke in fucking half. A machine designed to last tens of thousands of years destroyed in two and a half years!' She slammed her fist on the table sending the coffee mug and her rifle jumping in surprise and me in excruciating pain. I had created a monster. Thank you Solar Lady...
'I agree. He is not good enough. I need someone who knows how things really work. Which is why I am here. I need the advice f someone who actually knows how these things work.' that would had sounded better with me wincing.
'They work on their own. That's what they were made for. You stick them in the ground and they do the rest.'
'I know. But you can change them can't you?'
'I certainly can't.' she could not have distanced her self more from my implications if she had taken the next space train back to Earth.
'I mean hypothetically. There are functions that can be added. With plug-ins.'
'Actually it is more complicated than that. The terraformers are thousands of miles of analytical engines so their potential is almost limitless. The plug-in just tells them how to unlock a certain ability. You could theoretically teach them from scratch but...'
'Yes. Thank you. Fascinating.' And there was that icy stare again. She was like a cryogenic light house.
'I have a plug in.' there I said it.
She had her best Sunday poker face on but her eyes the little traitors were all round and full of stars.
'One that can teach a terraformer to speak.'
'How did you get such a thing?'
'Heirloom.' if my my deformed contact Kennedy could be a human this could be a truth.
'You inherited a Class A restricted piece of machine.' how dare that woman say that Kennedy was not a human!
'It's a long story and really not the important bit here. The important part is that I have this plug-in which I'd love to use.'
'I need help.'
'You seem to need a lot of that.'
'Yes. I do. People are trying to kill me.'
'There is a price on my head. Hit men are after me. They all think I have some kind of vital information. But I have no idea what it is. I can't work it out myself. But with a terraformer to sift through what I know, to go through all permutations of possibilities... that way I might find something. My time is running out. Getting here was very hard.Everywhere I go there is someone already waiting ready to kill or torture me. I'd like to at least know why.'
I sat back. I was sick and tired but I was finished with snivelling.
'What you are planning is ridiculous. It is close to suicide.'
'I'm living on borrowed time anyway. I'd rather go down in flames than let myself being led to slaughter.'
'I like that.'
'Yes. Despite the way you look and act and smell there seems to be a man hidden somewhere inside you. Now drink your coffee while I prepare myself. Oh and feel free to take a shower.'
She got up and left me with my coffee. She paused when she was passing the door.
'And when I say feel free I mean do it or I'll kill you with a shovel.'