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ST. JOHNS MAINTENANCE.


The date, translated to Greenway time, was February 12, 573.

Specialists came and went, calibrating sensors, checking subspace communications, and performing a myriad other tasks.

The sequence was identical with her recollection of the version she had taken from the Archives. She fast-forwarded. The technicians raced through their tasks, then left, and the picture blinked. The timer leaped ahead more than two hours and Kane appeared.

She switched back to normal play. Kane turned and looked into the imager, directly out of the screen at Kim. His jaw was set, his mouth a thin line. He ran through a checklist, got out of his chair, and disappeared. The imager shut off. Sixteen minutes later, ship time, it blinked on again.

Hunter ready to depart, he told St. Johns control.

Hunter, you are clear to go.

Kane warned his passengers they were thirty seconds from departure, and his harness locked in place.

Kim watched it all again: The launch of the Hunter, Kanes warning to Kile during the early minutes of the flight that the vessel would need a general overhaul when it got back, the jump to hyperspace. She watched the passengers come forward one by one and she listened to the now-familiar conversations. She hastened through the periods when Kane was alone in the pilots room.

The Hunter team talked about what they hoped to find in the Golden Pitcher. The Dream.

Nothing else mattered.

Tripleys recurrent assertions, Were going to do it this time, Markis; I know it, took on special poignancy.

She saw again Kanes infatuation with Emily. And hers with him.

She watched moodily, not expecting the record to deviate from the one she remembered until Hunter arrived off Alnitak. And probably even then it would not happen until just before they encountered the celestial. She was wrong.

It was almost three A.M. on day six when Kane, wearing a robe, appeared in the pilots room with a cup of coffee. He sat down, checked his instruments, looked at the time, and activated his harness. Okay, everybody, buckle in.

Voices broke in over the intercom.

Yoshi: Would somebody please tell me whats going on?

Emily: We have a surprise for you.

Yoshi: In the middle of the night?

Tripley: Yes. Its worth it.

Yoshi: So what is it? Markis, what are we doing?

Kim froze the picture, sat back in her chair, and stared at Kanes image in the glow of his instruments. In the doctored version, this hadnt happened.

No surprises for Yoshi.

And she knew now why Walt Gaerhard, the Interstellar technician, had been reluctant to talk about the jump engine repairs to which hed signed his name.

There had been no repairs.

Thered been no damage.


| Infinity Beach | c







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