Chap. 278 Leadership worries
His datalink beeped with the morning’s news. He had it next to his breakfast tray in the dining hall.
He’d finally forced himself into the habit of actually reading it.
Mostly because of Francie and Jansen and Raylan and Grafton all riding my arse, he thought.
How did they do that? I don’t remember seeing that. Did they use a harness? Raventh asked, truly perplexed.
He laughed out loud. A few heads turned, but otherwise he was ignored.
No, they didn’t actually ride me like I ride you, or a horse. It’s just a figure of speech.
And that means what? I didn’t hear you speech anything.
“Say”, not speech. And ‘figure of speech’ just means, its a set of words that we use to describe something that doesn’t really exist.
That is confusing.
I’m sorry, you’re right.
Ah. There was his name.
K’ndar: meet with Raylan this morning at your leisure.
Shards, here I’ve been dawdling. Leisure doesn’t mean when I feel like it, it just means there’s no set time-but it’s probably wise to get there. Now.
He turned in his breakfast tray and headed for Raylan’s office in the Main Administration building.
He stepped out into the rain. It spattered on his new ‘slicker’. It was a wonderful invention, he felt, the waterproofing having been developed by the folks in “Research and Development.”
Siskin appeared, disconsolately weeping. He didn’t like being kept out of the dining hall, but Someone had complained about fire lizards being ‘unsanitary’,which, he had to admit, was probably true. But so were all biological things, to include humans. Miklos, the microbiologist, for instance, wasn’t known for being overly fond of bathing. Some said he was a ‘walking Petri dish’, ‘growing his own study microbes’, yet he was allowed into the dining hall, in fact, the man was there now, as far from the main dining area as possible. Miklos radiated anti-social exclusion, as well as a very distinct aversion to things like bathing and human interaction.
Shaking the rain off his slicker, he headed for Raylan’s office.
The science division chief met him in the hallway.
“Good morning, K’ndar! What do you think of the slicker?”
“I think, sir, that I would have given my best boots for it when I was a kid on the steppe,” he said, “Wool keeps you warm but it gets heavy when wet, and takes forever to dry out.”
“You do know that the waterproof coating comes from a derivation of the smanda glue, don’t you?”
Raylan smiled. “Oh, yes. The folks in R&D have had a grand time playing with that stuff. We have a colony of smandas, now, and despite their hideous appearance, they’re fairly likable.”
K’ndar shivered. Siskin hissed. “I’ll take your word for it, sir, I think I’ve seen enough of them to last a lifetime.”
Raylan laughed. “Says the biologist! But I understand, Francie gets the shrieks when a manylegs enters our quarters. Of course, with three fire lizards and a cat in the place, invaders don’t stand a chance.”
“Anyway, the AranDee folks have come up with half a dozen uses for the glue so far and are coming up with new applications almost weekly. The fishers, the seamen, all of them want it. After Serengeti proved the waterproofing’s worth, we can’t fulfill the orders fast enough.“
“I saw on the datalink you wanted to meet with me?” K’ndar said, trying hard not to emphasize that he was, finally, and after much nagging, actually reading it every morning.
“I do. I want to brief you on what the basic requirements are of the proposed survey are, and hear your take on it.” He led the way into what K’ndar knew now was the ‘conference room. Um. I hadn’t given it much thought, he thought.
“No treats today, sir?” K’ndar said, noticing the condiments table was missing.
Raylan laughed. “Not today, dragonman! I can’t afford it, all this sitting I’m doing is adding kilos to my belly.” He touched the room’s datalink. As the lights dimmed, a map appeared on a bare wall at the far end.
He easily recognized Southern Continent. But it had been changed, he could see. There were many new points, glowing softly.
“This is a new map?” K’ndar said.
“It is. Every day, we’re getting more data, and we’re having to revise it almost weekly.”
Raylan picked up a small pencil shaped object and thumbed it. A tiny, bright red dot appeared on the map.
“Whoa, what is that?” K’ndar said.”
“It’s a laser pointer…” Raylan began.
Siskin launched. The blue fire lizard flew at the dot, stopping just short of running his head into the wall. He pounced on the red dot and began to scratch, frustrated that it had no substance. Raylan, laughing, shut off the pointer.
Siskin hovered, searching. He chittered, even attempting to get behind the wall. The projected map was superimposed on his shiny blue back.
“To me, lad, Siskin, to me,” he called. Siskin returned to his shoulder, huffing in indignation.
“Francie’s lizards do the same thing,” Raylan laughed. “First time they saw it they went berserk.”
“What is a laser pointer? A laser like the laser beacon? How does it work?”
“One question at a time, but I’m going to have to revert to using a stick. When we accessed the data base about the laser beacon, we got all sorts of uses for lasers, this little pencil being just one of them. It uses a small battery to shoot out a red pinpoint of light. The bright sparks in Engineering got with R&D, all of them were just crazy about lasers. They’ve already started turning out some amazing technology, they may even be able to recreate the laser rock carvers. If they can do that, the weeks spent hammering and chiseling away at cave walls are done. The miners will love it.”
He handed it to K’ndar. Siskin ignored it, not having made the connection.
“If you want Siskin to stay quietly on your shoulder, don’t turn it on, but that button on the side? You push it forward and it comes on.”
He rolled the slim metal tube in his hand. “Does it..um, is it dangerous?”
“No, if you mean can it hurt someone? Well, we’re told to not aim it at eyes, so I don’t think it’s completely safe, it’s never going to be a toy for kids.”
He handed it back. Raylan said, “One of the folks in R&D found the plans for this thing in the database and made it from bits and pieces in their Bits and Pieces bins. It’s incredibly handy. The only problem is cats and lizards go insane over it.” He laughed.
“I guess so!”
Raylan picked up an old fashioned wood pointer and turned to the map.
“Now then. Here’s the borders to Lord Dorn’s Hold. As you can see, a small offshoot of the Lay River delineates his western border from that of Lord Toric. Here’s the southern edges. When you found that raider’s lair, here on the southern border, Lord Dorn honestly believed it was part of his Hold. But it had never been properly surveyed. Lord Dorn believes this,” he drew an invisible, east-west line on the map that was, to K’ndar’s eye, indistinguishable from the rest of the map, “is the southern border of his hold, and right here is that raider’s lair you found, well inside it. It includes a huge portion of the steppe. Follow along this ridge here, and that’s where the rainforest ends, down this slope to a bit of savanna and then steppe begins. Toric, of course, insists all of this belongs to him, despite Piemur’s original survey demonstrating that here”-he drew a line west-“is where Toric’s Holdings truly and officially end.”
K’ndar nodded, only partially grasping the concept. He was still amazed at the map projected on the wall. Siskin watched and watched, waiting for that damned red spot to reappear.
Raylan flourished the wooden pointer. “From that boundary south, all the way to the southern range and beyond that, right to the coastline, belongs to dragonriders. What we need is clarification. Meaning, as I mentioned earlier, you and your team need to do the research, find out exactly where Holds end and where Dragonland begins. You need to be as sure of your readings, your data, as possible. If your data shows the current boundaries are wrong, it will probably cut a large portion out of Lord Dorn’s Hold and an even larger chunk out of Toric’s. That won’t make either one of them happy, but Lord Dorn will be amenable. In fact, he’s the one who brought it up in the first place. I’m willing to bet he’ll discuss leasing that section-his new cothold there is proving up very nicely. It’s Toric who will squeal like a gutshot pig and I can’t tell you how happy I am that that dealing with Toric is echelons above my pay grade. That’s Council’s problem.”
“Um-he’s already got my name on his shit list. Raylan, I’m sure he’ll come after me, calling me a liar at best. Wouldn’t it be better to have Lord D’nis? But that’s probably not doable.”
“As for the former, Toric can bellow all he wants, you will be protected by Landing. As for Lord D’nis? I admit, K’ndar, I would prefer a bronze rider, but no, it’s not doable, and that is tearing him up. Sometimes I wonder if it’s fair to ask a working dragonrider to be a councilman. Both T’balt and D’nis have able bodied dragons, they’re fretting like good horses stuck in a stall. They both would jump at the chance to go. I can’t tell you how happy they were to get out and drill with the rest of you, for a while, they were ‘just’ dragonriders. I think, from now on, they’ll be doing something like that at least once a week.”
“I’m up for that, too, sir. But this gives me another reason I’m glad I ride a brown, sir, nothing expected of me other than just being a dragonrider.”
“Don’t sell yourself or Raventh short, K’ndar, you’re both valued members of Landing.”
K’ndar grimaced, the gravity of the situation became apparent.
“Are you sure I’m the right man for the job? Maybe..maybe have G’aryk as team leader?” He didn’t have a clue what G’aryk did, but bronze riders were far more accustomed to leadership roles. “I’ve never been given this..this much responsibility.”
Raylan patted his shoulder. “I know. Don’t worry too much, K’ndar. We thought of G’aryk, too, but unfortunately for him, he’s up to his ears in another project, up north in Bitra, poor man. Leana wanted the job but admitted she has no experience whatsoever. And Acquisition has become a two person job, she’s got her hands full. Same with the other dragonriders.”
“What if I get things wrong? I’m a biologist, not a leader.”
He shrugged. “K’ndar, someone made a mistake in setting the boundaries in the first place. If you do, too, well, maybe we’ll have to do it the old way, with a land crew on horseback, counting every tree, every canyon. That takes a lot more time and the logistics-which is G’aryk’s skill-can be daunting. Don’t worry. If you make a mistake, you won’t be fired, because in the grand scheme of things, it’s not a world ending event. We all realize that you’re a biologist, not a surveyor. But you have two, at least, or is it three? of these expeditions under your belt. That’s more than anyone here other than D’nis. Be as sure as you can. Remember, you’ll be team leader, not team biologist. Annotate the creatures you find, the plants, for future investigation, but this survey is for clarification.”
“Okay,” K’ndar said in glum resignation.
“I expect your team to commute-oh, such a wonder is a dragon! staying here in the evenings and we’ll be providing whatever items you might need. You may, also, have a guest or a visitor at times, not only Lord Dorn, but someone from here, as well. I am giving you free rein on whom you want to choose for your team. Have you given it any thought?”
K’ndar made himself think. “Thank you, sir. Um, I’d love to have D’mitran, but he’s contracted to Lord Dorn. Do you think he’d mind releasing D’mitran?”
Raylan grinned. “Lord Dorn is steps ahead of you in that, K’ndar, he’s already offered D’mitran’s services and D’mitran sent this message to you, “Don’t you dare not pick me.”
Yes. Careth is my friend and I miss him Raventh said.
“Raventh agrees. D’mitran is my engineer, then.”
“Done. Now who for your surveyor? A geologist.”
“That’s where I’m stuck, sir. B’rost was a good geologist but he’s, well, he can be scatterbrained and takes unnecessary risks. That and I know he’s training to be a Healer. I’ve not heard from him in months. So B’rost is a no go. I’ve been absent from Kahrain Steppe Weyr long enough that I don’t know who in their current roster of dragonriders is qualified. They’ve lost a lot of riders and gained ones I don’t know. And I don’t know enough of the people here, I don’t really know who is a geologist as well as a dragonrider.”
“I do. No one.”
“Are you willing to take someone behind you on Raventh?”
“Sure, that’s no problem.”
“How about Fleming?” Raylan said, his eyebrows jumping.
“ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I’d sooner walk barefoot to the boundary than have anything…” K’ndar half shouted.
Raylan raised his hands in self defense. “I was teasing, he’s not a geologist, he’s a numbers cruncher. An “accountant”. I was just getting a rise out of you.”
K’ndar relaxed. “You succeeded.”
Raylan nodded. He punched a button on his datalink and the map disappeared, replaced by a list of names of people grouped by specialty.
Raylan ran the pointer down a list of names, saying under his breath, “No, he’s afraid of dragons, not this one, he’s a good scientist but, no, her?…no, she’s pregnant, ah. Here. Risal. What about her? She’s a geologist AND has the experience of surveying.”
Risal. That pretty girl in Flight Ops!!
Something went PANG in his heart.
“I don’t know her very well, but I think she’d do, but what about her job in Flight Ops?”
“She’s training an apprentice as we speak. Howel, the official Flight Ops man, has been minding his manners, lately. Grafton breathed down his neck regarding his duty performance, which, you probably know better than I, has been piss poor. So he will be told to pick up the slack. It’s a dirty trick to play on the apprentice, but Risal will arm him against Howel, and it wouldn’t be for much more than a couple weeks. Do you think?”
“Um, I don’t know, sir. I really don’t have any idea how long it will take. I doubt it would take the months we took to survey the steppe, or even the Western Continent. But, Raylan, I have no idea how to do the surveying itself.”
“K’ndar, you will be the Leader, not the grunt.” Raylan’s data link buzzed. He looked at it momentarily and sighed. He touched it and said, “I’ll be there in a moment.” Looking up at K’ndar, he said, “I’m sorry, K’ndar, but I’ve got to close this right now. I hope you don’t mind? If you would, please, make a rough draft of a plan for the survey and let’s go over it sometime late next week. No rush, I know your work is all caught up and tomorrow is a rest day. That and you do have some off time saved up.”
“Yes, sir,” he said, grateful for the interruption. Leader. Telling D’mitran what to do? I don’t have that in me. I just don’t. But I’ve been handed this ugly baby and I guess I better get to work on it right now.
“K’ndar of Landing, K’ndar of Landing,” his datalink said.
He touched it and said, “K’ndar here, who calls?”
“Siena, Weyrwoman of Kahrain Weyr. K’ndar, Mirth’s clutch is about to hatch. Perhaps this afternoon, no later than tomorrow. She’s laid two dozen eggs, one is undoubtedly a queen, and we have a full slate of Candidates, for once! Would you be willing to come and witness the Impression?”
He looked up at Raylan, hoping. Go, Raylan mouthed, flicking his chin upwards.
He didn’t have to think twice. “I’d be honored, ma’am.”
“Great! I don’t mean to be rude, but I must ring off, I have some others to invite.”
“I understand. I’ll be there by noon,” he said. She cut the link.
“Thank you, sir.” Something-he’d missed something in the short exchange with Siena. The thought vanished.
“No problem, K’ndar. Impressions are always a treat!” Raylan said.
I hope she invites D’nis, he thought. Donning his slicker, he went outside. The rain had turned to a very light drizzle. He went to Flight Ops to check the weather.
Risal was there, deep in conversation with her new apprentice. Howel was there too, trying to ignore him and still look supercilious. If this is his idea of ‘better performance’! He cleared his throat. Risal looked up. “K’ndar! Hello!’
Should he discuss the survey with her now? No. I have to think things through, first.
“Hi! I’m here for the weather for Kahrain Steppe Weyr. Please tell me it will stop raining?”
She grinned. Beckoning the apprentice, she said, “Here’s a chance to work with what I’ve been telling you. Please, would you brief K’ndar, our staff biologist who is also a dragonrider!”
The teen looked nervous, clearly intimidated by the importance of the task. He stuttered. Immediately, K’ndar felt empathy for the teen. He’d probably been teased unmercifully early in life. But the boy wouldn’t be training for journeyman meteorologist if he hadn’t demonstrated an aptitude for it. That’s a skill I will never grasp, he thought.
“So, will I have an open window for flying, with no rain?”
“Ye..yessir. I see this rain st ..stopping in abb..bbout an…” the lad stopped, seemed to grapple with his voice, and then said, “I’m sorr..sorry..”
“It’s okay, lad. Don’t worry. Take your time. I’ll never tease you. When can I expect to fly without rain? I’m not afraid of the rain, you understand, it’s lightning that scares me.”
“I…I didn’t know dragonriders could be.. be afraid of anything.”
K’ndar laughed. “You’re looking at the rider who was scared spitless every time he flew against Thread.”
The boy seemed to gain confidence. “Yess Sir. This rain sshould stop in about an hour and then wwon’t resume unttil tomorrow nnnight after eleven or so.”
Risal winked at him from behind the teen, with a thumbs up.
“Thank you. I’ll be signing out for Kahrain Steppe Weyr, then,” he said, hoping his acceptance of the boy’s data would give the lad courage. Being left alone with Howel wasn’t going to be easy.
He walked over to the sign out board and wrote down Kahrain Steppe Weyr after his name, and put down departure time in an hour. That will give me time to pack a bag.
“Going home for a visit?” Risal asked.
“Sort of…there’s an Impression and I’ve been invited to witness it.”
She looked wistful. “Oh, how nice it must be to just be able to board a dragon and fly to it.”
“Well, happy Impression, I guess. By the way, K’ndar, you’ve not heard? It’s no longer Kahrain Steppe Weyr.”
“The Weyrleaders decided to change the name, dropping the “Steppe”. Now it’s just plain ol’ “Kahrain Weyr.”