Chap. 283 The Range Finder
K’ndar of Landing K’ndar of Landing
He reached for the datalink with his left hand. I’m getting used to using it, he thought, as he brushed the screen lightly. Only took what, months? And the kids suck it in by osmosis without trying.
“K’ndar here. Who calls?”
“Good morning, K’ndar! D’mitran here, finally having figured out how to communicate with this blasted datalink. I can take data with it but until my boy explained how to use it as a communication device I was lost. The kids! They are smarter with this sort of thing than I’ll ever be.”
“D’mitran!! Where are you?”
He heard the man laugh.
“Well, right now, I’m, oh, about two winglengths away from Raventh.”
“Wow!! You’re right by my quarters! I’ll be there in a few minutes.”
The tall, lanky brown rider was sitting in the shade just outside Raventh’s bay.
“I am so out of shape,” he groused, bending over to catch his breath.
D’mitran laughed. “Not as much as I, mate. Being at Singing Waters Hold has its benefits but there’s some disadvantages, as well. I’m doing a lot of naught, physically. And my wife is making sure I’m eating and she’s always been a top notch cook.”
“I know. The dragonriders here have started doing drills twice a week, just to keep our dragons in shape.”
“I never thought of doing that! Great idea! I’ll ping B’rant and see if I can’t join his Weyrlings doing drill.”
“Or join us?”
“I’d like that. Send me a schedule, please?”
“Will do.” He straightened up. Definitely I need to do more physical stuff. “The Weyr’s gone back to drilling?”
“They come out over Singing Waters as part of training. Remember, the Hold has a lot of navigation features, like the Falls. The weyrling’s dragons need the work, they need to build muscle and stamina while they’re growing. And the kids need to learn how to work as a team. I’m sure, though, that the weyrlings are complaining about the monotony, ‘specially dismounted drill. I’m sure you remember. It takes ‘em awhile to begin to understand the why of it. At least I was that way.”
“I do. I was one of the type that had to carry a rock in my left hand to remember left from right. But this class, D, might be different. Three adults impressed dragons.”
“Adults! I missed the Impression. I hadn’t heard that. I suppose I can understand why. The last clutch, by the egg, has it been two years? Mirth’s last clutch they were barely able to find enough candidates.”
“I bet they’d heard about M’rvin.”
D’mitran nodded. “Aye.”
“So, come on in. Something to drink? I’m sorry to say I’ve nothing alcoholic. You know me, I don’t drink.”
He opened Raventh’s bay door and led the way into his quarters and into the kitchen.
“Not to worry, I’m on duty right now. Lord Dorn’s in with the Council. And I want to get with you regarding this upcoming survey you’re heading.” He looked wistful.
“If I didn’t let you know earlier, please forgive me. I’ve been up to my ears with getting it arranged. I got your message and I’ll thank Lord Dorn for lending you. You’re my engineer, D’mitran, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t bothered by giving you orders. I’m not comfortable being the boss. Klah? It’s still sort of warm.” He took a pair of mugs out of the small cupboard and flourished the tea kettle.
D’mitran looked relieved. “I’m good. And K’ndar, it’s okay. I don’t mind. If we’d been bronze riders, we both would eventually be superseded. Look at Kahrain, F’mart is Weyrleader? Who would have believed it? I’m sure the cadre did doubletakes when Kenth flew Mirth. Some of the older bronze riders left because of it. They didn’t think he had the experience, and they were right. Some of them found it hard to believe he wouldn’t be the mouthy, arrogant bully he’d been as a Weyrling. But everything I’ve heard says he’s proving to be better than one could have hoped. I can see Siena’s guiding hand, she’s sharp as a razor. M’rvin was marginal as a leader and even worse as a person. Let me change my mind, I’d like some klah, please.”
K’ndar filled the second mug and handed it over. They klinked mugs. “Kippiss”
“Outside or in?”
“Out. It’s a warm day out there, for early autumn.”
“I hope you don’t mind, D’mitran, that I’ll be picking your brains while we’re out there.”
“I expect that. It’s how we learn. Who else is on the team?”
“Risal, she’s a geologist and a surveyor, she currently works in Landing’s Flight Ops. And, I learned, I need TWO surveyors for this team, so my second is B’rost.”
D’mitran sputtered a mouthful of klah.
“B’rost? Is that little nomad back? Are you sure, K’ndar? You know he can be as flighty as a flutter. And sometimes he takes unnecessary risks. Stars knows how he’s managed to survive this long.”
“I know. I know. Quite honestly, I was sort of forced into it. He almost begged me into taking him on.”
He felt an odd sense, one of relief that he could discuss this with D’mitran without the two geologists hearing it.
“But he’s like F’mart, I think, he’s done a lot of maturing. He’s a journeyman healer, now, and it fits him like a glove.”
D’mitran looked doubtful. “Well, I’ll trust your judgment. You always were able to get through to him. I think you were the only one.”
“Just four, then?”
“Aye. We’ll be surveying Southern Holds boundaries, and Lord Dorn’s.”
D’mitran nodded. “He’s been fretting about it. We were down at the new cothold, the one the raiders had set up. He’s worried that he’s not legal, that he’s encroaching on dragonlands.”
“How’s that getting on?”
“Very well. The man Shawn had chained and beaten? He’s Random. He had two green firelizards? He’s Cotholder, and most of the folks who’d been coerced into being raiders stayed of their own accord. Most of them were good folks, K’ndar, their families were held hostage by Shawn. He had two people, one Scar and a woman named Vika, who’d been the main enforcers. She’d go into a Holdless camp, pretending to be one of them, and after dark, Scar and a handful of louts would sneak in, snatch up a couple kids or a pregnant woman, and then hold them hostage.”
“Killing him was the best thing that man, Alph? ever did.”
“Aye. He’s back there, too, by the way. Lord Dorn had him do six months of hard labor and then set him free. First thing he did was light out, back to the cothold. The cothold is running very well because of them and a few others.”
“What did Lord Dorn do to them all?”
“Most of them a mild punishment, nothing that was punitive. It was more a gentle warning, “don’t do this again”. There were a few he had us take away. Three of the bad ‘uns are still in cells, and K’ndar, I know this will bother you, but two of them I had to take out to the steppe and maroon.”
“Shaff it,” K’ndar swore, “That’s my steppe. Three and two makes five, what about the remaining two? He didn’t behead Scar and Vika?”
“No. They escaped.”
“Shabash. They were the worst of the lot.”
“And now they’re loose.”
Irritated, K’ndar emptied his mug. “D’mitran, sometimes I wish we’d never told anyone about the steppe. It’s not a garbage dump.”
“I know, K’ndar. I’m no happier than you are. But if it makes you feel any better, Scar and Vika both have prices on their head, and we have wanted posters out throughout the Hold. Even Toric is doing that, a good third of the livestock had been stolen from his herds. Shawn stole hand and foot from him after Toric had paid him. Apparently, this is just rumor, mind you, but Shawn had been double crossing Toric, and that man does NOT like being cheated. Not that he’s not above doing it himself, mind you.”
“Lie down with the pigs and get up filthy,” K’ndar said, “It serves him right. What troubles me with this survey is how Toric’s going to react when we-when Pern and the Council find he’s been cheating, claiming dragonlands for himself. Especially when he hears I’m in charge. He’s already got it out for me.”
“Are you afraid of him?”
“He’s got a lot of power, D’mitran. He’s got rogue dragonriders flying for him. Don’t forget how he had spies all through his Gather hunting for me. I’d be a fool if I said no, I’m not afraid of him. But I’m not a fool. Not now. I don’t know if this is false bravado or just, oh, I don’t know the word.”
“Forewarned is forearmed, K’ndar. There’s only so much power he has or can do. You’re not his only enemy, just the newest one. I don’t think you have to worry, too much.”
“Hello, what’s this?”
A team of people came around the corner, two of them carrying odd looking pieces of equipment on tripods.
“Good morning, dragonriders!” one of them said.
“Good morning,” they both responded.
“Say, do you mind, can you make your dragons move? Just for a little while? We’re testing these new toys we’ve invented and need an open area.”
Where shall we go? Raventh asked.
Come up here with us.
What are they doing?
They said they’re testing new equipment
The two brown dragons waddled to where he and D’mitran were sitting. Even with Siskin atop Raventh’s head, he was still much smaller than Careth.
“Nice dragons,” said a woman on the team, “especially the little one. He’s pretty.”
“Thank you,” I think, he thought. Raventh “little”? Thank the stars dragons weren’t so impressed by size.
He recognized one of the team. “I remember you, you’re Nashua, from Research and Development?”
“That’s me. I remember you now, K’ndar. I hope your dragons don’t mind us commandeering their meadow for a while? We’re testing this laser, for your upcoming survey,” the man said.
D’mitran, always the engineer, said, “Laser? What’s a laser?” He got up to look and was immediately hooked.
“That will take some time to explain, sir, but for now, this is called a laser range finder. That laser beacon you found? We’ve had all sorts of fun with it. The database!! It’s like a puzzle, once you find the right words, it unlocks all sorts of information. This thing, for instance, will probably make surveying, you’re doing the surveying, yes? This will make it so much quicker to make a baseline, find accurate distance, than the old way we’ve done it in the past, with chains and rods. Your data will be absolutely precise.”
“How does it work?”
“Here’s the solar panels, they’re charging the laser, this barrel shaped thing? First we’ll get a beam straight down to insure we’re dead on the mark, then we fire the laser, it will send out a beam towards the receiver, way over there at the other end. We’ll do several tests at various distances. Once we’ve got things all dialed in, then we’ll get with you and train you all on its use.”
“How far can it go?” D’mitran said, entranced.
“We don’t know. Theoretically? Forever.”
“Yes, sir. To the stars.”
K’ndar watched as the team began doing their testing. D’mitran was right there, soaking in every bit.
Why do I feel as if I’ve been slighted? They’re treating him as if he were team leader, not me. I was the one who found the beacon, not D’mitran.
What do you mean, so?
You don’t want to be team leader but now you do?
Well, yes. I mean no. I mean, oh I don’t know what I’m feeling. Jealousy that they’re thinking D’mitran is the boss? Pride? But I don’t care, really. He IS much smarter than I am at this sort of thing. I still would be much happier if he were team leader, and me just the biologist.
The team set up two tripods a distance between the two, while another pair dragged a measuring tape between them. They set up their tripods directly over their end of the tape, a plumb bob dangling from it to insure accuracy.
“Tape says one hundred meters!” a woman called, “Ready!”
“K’ndar!! Be careful, we don’t plan on the beam going astray, but please, don’t let the beam hit your eyes!” Nashua called. The team donned yellow lensed goggles, one handing an extra to D’mitran.
“You can look at the beams from the side, but if you look at it directly, it might blind you,” Nashua called.
That sounds dangerous, he thought. “Do I need a goggle? And what about our dragons?”
“I don’t think so, honestly, I didn’t think of your dragons! As long as you don’t look INTO the beam you should be okay. And maintain a safe distance, where you are right now is far enough to be safe. Warn your dragons! But for your survey, we’ll provide goggles for you AND your dragons.”
Nashua returned to the task at hand.
Each range finder shot a red beam straight down. The teams re-arranged their tripods until they were perfectly aligned with their benchmark. “On benchmark!” each team called.
That beam looked like the laser pen he’d seen at the briefing. Siskin!
Raventh. Tell Siskin to stay up here with us. Do not let him go near that beam. For that matter, don’t look into it, like he said. I don’t want you hurt.
We know. Careth heard from D’mitran, too Raventh said. Siskin chipped but stayed atop his head.
“Okay,” Nashua called, behind the laser range finder. “Everyone ready?”
“Right then. ‘Ware beam! On my mark, three, two, one, engage!”
An emerald green beam shot out from the range finder. It glittered, reflecting off the dust motes in the air.
It was beautiful. And silent. For some reason, I expected a noise, he thought.
“Ninety eight point two three seven meters!” called the woman at the receiver.
“Beam off. Reset!” Nashua called. The green beam vanished.
The woman’s team moved their tripod.
“ ‘Ware beam! Engaging!” The beam lanced out again, straight as an arrow.
“Ninety nine point zero zero five meters!”
“Beam off! Reset.”
“Beware beam! Engaging!”
“One hundred point zero one one meters!”
“Beam off! Reset!”
She moved the tripod just a tiny bit.
“Beware beam! Engaging!”
“One hundred point zero zero zero meters!”
D’mitran handed his goggles back to Nashua and rejoined K’ndar. His mind danced with all the possibilities a laser anything could provide. And we’ll get to play with it!
“That thing is amazing. What accuracy! It will definitely make things go a LOT faster, K’ndar. A lot,” he said, so enthused he could barely keep from laughing.
K’ndar kept his resentment to himself. I’m being silly, he thought. I don’t know why.
It’s okay. He knows this sort of thing but not biology. You know biology but not whatever D’mitran knows. When we are on expedition, we are a team. Like dragons when fighting thread. I can flame the big falls and fight for the whole fall, because I have endurance. The greens fly much faster so they can hit what we missed but they tire faster, too, and can’t fight a whole fall. So the greens take turns, some coming up as others are going down to rest. That’s why there are always more greens and blues. We all work as a team.
K’ndar grinned, letting his pride slide away. Just like a brother, he is. Just like D’mitran.
You are right. But you forgot something.
Yes, you are by far the smartest brown dragon in Pern.