"Is there room for my EEP?"
The Pas made a careless motion with his claw. "It can run behind." Sardonic amusement touched his ugly old face. "If it gets to Karnet we'll sell it for scrap. We can use a few condensers and relay tubing. We're short on electronic maintenance stuff."
"I know," Tony said solemnly, as he climbed into the cabin of the truck. "It's all been sent to the big repair base at Orion I. For your warfleet."
Amusement vanished from the leathery face. "Yes, the warfleet." He turned away and started up the truck again. In the back, Tony's EEP had scrambled up on the load of _tis_ and was gripping precariously with its magnetic lines.
Tony noticed the Pas-udeti's sudden change of expression, and he was puzzled. He started to speak to him—but now he noticed unusual quietness among the other Pas, in the other trucks, behind and in front of his own. The war, of course. It had swept through this system a century ago; these people had been left behind. Now all eyes were on Orion, on the battle between the Terran warfleet and the Pas-udeti collection of armed freighters.
"Is it true," Tony asked carefully, "that you're winning?"
The elderly Pas grunted. "We hear rumors."
Tony considered. "My father says Terra went ahead too fast. He says we should have consolidated. We didn't assemble adequate supply bases. He used to be an officer, when he was younger. He was with the fleet for two years."
The Pas was silent a moment. "It's true," he said at last, "that when you're so far from home, supply is a great problem. We, on the other hand, don't have that. We have no distances to cover."
"Do you know anybody fighting?"
"I have distant relatives." The answer was vague; the Pas obviously didn't want to talk about it.
"Have you ever seen your warfleet?"
"Not as it exists now. When this system was defeated most of our units were wiped out. Remnants limped to Orion and joined the Orion fleet."
"Your relatives were with the remnants?"
"Then you were alive when this planet was taken?"
"Why do you ask?" The old Pas quivered violently. "What business is it of yours?"
7/23/2016 4:23:32 AM
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