Chap. 260 Arse Chewing
Our timing was perfect K’ndar said.
He was rolling up his still dry harness in Raventh’s bay. The skies had opened up just moments before.
“I’ll never get used to how it rains here,” he said, out loud.
What do you mean?
Look at it! It’s coming sideways! And hard! At home on the steppe, it starts out gently, then gathers strength and pours for a while, straight down. Not like this.
It’s still just rain, to me. I think I’ll go out in it Raventh said, and he waddled out into the downpour.
Siskin stayed in the bay. He swirled around over K’ndar’s head, then perched atop his regular ledge.
The blue fire lizard chirruped at him, then curled up. Within moments he was asleep.
I wish I could go to sleep so easily, he thought. I could use a nap right now. If I do, though, I might not get to sleep tonight. No. I KNOW I won’t go to sleep tonight, I’ll be thinking all night about what’s happened. But I need to sign in at Flight Ops, get something to eat, then go talk to Raylan. Or maybe I should talk to him after signing in?
His datalink called. He answered.
“Raylan here. I saw you come in on Raventh. Why don’t you get something to eat, then meet me here at my office?”
Relieved at having the decision made for him, he said, “Yes sir, but I want to sign into Flight Ops, first.”
“Aye. See you soon.”
Why don’t I feel so confident as I have in the past, with Raylan?
He was a bundle of nerves, waiting to talk to Raylan.
The division chief waved him into his office. The door slid shut behind him with a whoosh. It felt like a trap.
“Tell me…what’s wrong, K’ndar? You look nervous,” Raylan was standing next to his desk, a large map of Landing behind him.
As he looked at Raylan, he heard Uncle Fland’s words in his mind.
“K’ndar, only a child makes excuses when they screw up. If you have an arse chewing coming up, own up and take it right away. That way, it won’t be gnawing on your headbone all night.”
He took a deep breath. “I’m waiting to have my head removed.”
Raylan paused, then sighed.
“Am I that imposing?”
“You are to me, sir. I was surprised, and shocked, and I’m still rattled. I thought I was obeying. Instead I find I had made a big mistake, and now I’m about to be punished for it.”
“Hmm.” Raylan sat down, and indicated that K’ndar take the other bench.
“It’s difficult, sometimes, K’ndar, to be a friend, as I have always been with you. Francie…she considers you her kid brother, as well as a dragonrider from the same weyr. I haven’t told her of what happened, she would have been your first defender. But she doesn’t meddle with my business, nor do I in hers.”
He picked up a pencil and fiddled with it.
“There comes a time when I have to put on my spurs and treat you as a subordinate in a work environment. Like this morning. “
He pointed it at K’ndar.
“It’s not easy, K’ndar. But it wouldn’t do for me to treat you differently than other people, because of friendship. I can’t be seen going easy on you, or giving you privileges and withholding them from people I don’t happen to like. We both know of people who manipulate their bosses. It’s bad business, all round. “
K’ndar gulped, shaking with suppressed adrenaline.
“I don’t want favoritism, sir. I want to be believed when I, um, relate what I did after being told what to do by someone else. I believed Jomoke when he said you had full knowledge and approved. my leaving. I have to admit I am resentful, yes, that’s the word, that you didn’t trust me. I’ve always been honest, with everyone. It seems to me that here in Landing honesty is unbelievable.”
Raylan ran a hand over his face.
“K’ndar, at first I was surprised at your failure to repair. The friend Raylan knew better, but the division chief Raylan had to be hard…and fair. It’s not that I didn’t believe you, I didn’t think you were someone who’d just take off on a whim. But I have been known to be wrong about people in the past, for instance, Lefsa’s husband. He showed his true colors at last. If I’d been able to see him for what he really was, I could possibly have prevented him hurting her, or trying to kill you!
Once you told me what Jomoke did, even before I listened to the recording, I was able to then make decisions. You’re not in trouble, K’ndar. I’m not going to relieve you of your head. I wanted you here to input your data from your foray in the jungle in regards to the beast. It needs to be in the database in time for the meeting.”
“Yes, sir.” He felt dismay…there was a lot to put in, his data input was painfully slow. I’ll be up all night, he thought. Oh, shut up, K’ndar. It’s a reprieve. Lesson learned, the hard way, but learned.
“No problem, sir, I’ll have it all input by tomorrow morning.”
I hope, he thought. It’s going to be a long night. His angst increased…he had no idea what time it would be. Okay, K’ndar, you claim to be honest? Own up.
“I confess, sir, I have no idea what time it starts. I think it was 0800?”
Raylan’s eyes hardened.
“Uh huh. This is another reason I wanted to talk to you. K’ndar, you have a bad habit of neglecting to read the dailies on your datalink. You’re staff, now, mate, not some good natured kid with a knack for biology. Had you checked your datalink this morning, you would have known that tomorrow’s meeting has been moved to two weeks from now. Some of the researchers have yet to fully input their initial findings. One being you.”
Cringing, he felt his stomach knot. Part of him-the little kid-flared in anger. He’d been through a lot today, and it still wasn’t over! Do I really, really want this job?
Then there was relief. Two weeks! That was plenty of time.
“Yes, sir. You are right. I am not making excuses. I really forget to check it. I am not used to it, even after the six months? I’ve been here.”
Raylan stood up. K’ndar unconsciously followed suit, thinking the meeting was over. “I know. If it makes you feel any better, I almost literally had to chain mine to my wrist to force me to use it. It’s a nuisance! Francie, oh, that woman! she took to it like a dolphin to water. But she’s always been the brains in the family.
Still, K’ndar, I would like for you to really work at getting the data input as soon as possible. No dillydallying! Tomorrow is a rest day, and I will belabor the point one more time, K’ndar, had you read the dailies, you would know that next week, we’ll all be at Singing Waters Hold, bringing in the harvest. Lord Dorn and his folk are our main supporters, as you know. I’ll be there, Francie, too, in fact, pretty much the only folks left here will be the Council members and the maintenance staff. Once there, I have no idea what any of us will be doing. Stoop labor. But even scientists have to eat, and if we want to eat, we have to harvest first.”
“Oh. You’re right. I didn’t know,” he said, relieved-and embarrassed. Harvest time so soon? But he had things he wanted to do!
Shut up, K’ndar. Shut the shaff up.
“Will we be staying out there?”
“Most of us, yes. We already have a team out there, setting up sleeping and cook tents. You dragon riders? As long as you report for duty on time, I have no problems with you going elsewhere for the night. I will probably ride behind Francie back here. It sounds strange, but I’m going to welcome dropping the reins of management for a week. I’ll just be a mindless pair of hands with a strong back.”
“No problem, sir. I’m up for whatever they hand me.”
As long as it’s not haying, he thought. But he didn’t say it.
Relief flooded his mind. Now I have time to make sense of my findings, rewrite my notes. I’ll come back here in the evenings and work on my data.
“Thank you. Now, unless you have anything, please, I’ve got a ton of things to get done.”
He was about to leave when Raventh whispered, Tovar and Firoth.
“Um…yes, sir. I’ve discovered who the rogue dragonrider is.”
Raylan gawped. He sat down with a thump.
“His name is T’ovar. He was assigned to our survey team when we went to Western Continent, when they were still looking for a spot for the new telescope.”
“T’ovar. T’ovar. Supposedly a liaison with Tillek Sea Hold, right? Wasn’t he the one Rahman fired?”
“How…no. K’ndar, sit. I’m calling Council RIGHT NOW. If they have time for us…and I’m certain they will, given the importance of this, you can fill us all in.”
If he thought he’d been nervous before, it was nothing like this time, he thought. His heart was pounding even before they were called in.
That took less than five minutes. The door to their chamber whooshed open and Raylen urged him in.
He was awestruck. This was the nerve center of Landing, the headquarters of Pern.
Seven people were loosely arranged around a large table.
I thought it was the council of six? he thought.
There were maps everywhere. A slate board had incomprehensible notes on it. A young woman sat along a back wall, her job to annotate everything said into a datalink. Behind her, a large screen showed her words as she input them. Another screen had a view of the entire planet from far, far overhead. Yet another showed a slice of the planet, again from far overhead, looking at what appeared to be the Northern continent. Clouds obscured much of it. Something from his meteorology classes told him it was snowing up north.
The high scenes had to be coming from the Yokohama.
I could look at the scene all day, he thought. This is some important stuff.
D’nis, his former Weyrleader, met his eye…and winked.
Corvuth said D’nis says to relax, you aren’t going to be eaten Raventh said, transmitting D’nis‘s words through his bronze dragon.
Ask him if it’s that obvious?
After a moment, D’nis grinned…and nodded.
I just love being able to talk without speaking, he thought.
Raylan cleared his throat. He sounded nervous. Too.
“My lords, I am Raylan, Science Division Chief.”
K’ndar was fascinated to see Raylan’s words appear on the screen behind the stenographer.
“This is K’ndar, rider of brown Raventh and my staff biologist. He has something to report.”
Wait. What? I thought you were going to do the talking? Me? K’ndar’s wits scattered like panicked chickens.
The seven fastened their eyes on him. They bored holes right through him. Yes. I have to speak.
“Sirs, he squeaked. “And Madam,” he added, in an even higher pitch. Oh, no, I’ve insulted her. He cleared his throat again. His face flushed red at his pitch..
They all bit back grins. He fought his throat. It fought back.
“It’s okay, K’ndar,” said the woman. She was openly grinning. “We don’t bite.”
“Speak for yourself, Harper. I do”, said one. They laughed. It broke the tension.
“My lords,” he said, wondering if the woman would be angered by being referred to as lord? He cleared his throat again, and this time it obeyed. He dragged his focus back to the task.
“My lords. This morning I was in the jungle south of Southern Hold. I was with Rand, one of Lord Toric’s cotholders. Several weeks ago, he was cheated by a dragonrider who charged him three marks for transport, rather than the two that Pern’s Weyrs and Holders who’ve hired freelance dragonriders have all agreed on. This dragonrider has been marauding in Lord Toric’s Holdlands. The cotholder told me that several people in his area have had livestock and food stolen, the rider has been harassing people and the Wanderers have said that he’s extorted and defrauded them. I saw where the dragonrider had arsoned Rand’s hut. Rand had only been able to pay one half of the rate, but had promised to pay the rest later. I believe his hut was arsoned as retribution.
Rand reported that the dragon the marauder rides is a large brown with a long scar on his right back leg.
I transported Rand to Southern Weyr, where the Weyrleader allowed us to meet every one of his male dragonriders, to include two weyrlings. None of those men or boys were the man Rand was cheated by.
Today, while I was with Rand, the dragonrider flew right overhead. Rand saw the scar on the dragon’s leg. In addition, my lords, my fire lizard followed the dragon rider and sent me images of the man and the dragon. My dragon immediately recognized the dragon as brown Firoth, originally from High Reaches Weyr, and I recognized the man as T’ovar, originally High Reaches Weyr, and last I knew, transferred to Tillek Sea Hold, where he has a wife.”
He ran out of breath, then held it.
“Do you know why he is HERE?” one of them said.
“No, my lord.”
“And how do you know him?” the woman asked.
“Ma’am, I met T’ovar when I was a member of the survey team that transported Rahman, the astronomer, to Western Continent. We surveyed a portion of that continent, concentrating on finding a coastal spot for the new telescope. While we were at the first telescope base, T’ovar did not provide anything much in the way of assistance or support to the survey team, and after not showing up for work, Rahman fired him. T’ovar threatened him with bodily harm. The staff had to restrain T’ovar from hurting Rahman and banished him from the entire continent. That was the last time I ever saw him, until this morning.”
D’nis looked somber. He turned to the others and said, “My lords, I can fill you in on the details, as I as the head of that survey team.”
Okay. It was okay to refer to the lady as “lord”.
They nodded. “Is this all the information you have?” the seventh man asked. He was sitting slightly behind the others. He had the air of majesty.
K’ndar steadied. “Yes, my lords.” He suddenly realized the man was Lytol, a man of incredible age, who’d been through everything in Pern’s history from even before F’lar and Lessa, Ruatha, fighting Fax, Thread returning, steward of Ruatha and mentor to Lord Jaxom, he met Aivas… How old WAS the man? What kept him going? He must be 100 years old.
He was also, K’ndar remembered, a man who’d lost his dragon and survived. Just like Uncle Fland.
“Thank you, K’ndar, rider of brown Raventh, and Raylan,” Lytol said.
He felt as if he’d been bestowed the highest honor Pern possessed. He bowed as deeply as he could. Raylan took his arm and steered them both out of the room.
The whoosh of the door behind him brought him out of his daze. His shirt was wringing wet.
His heart rate slowed. He suddenly felt cold.
“I…I…wow. That was scary.” He patted his shirt. “I’m soaked.”
Raylan laughed. “Me, too.”