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Power Lines

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Power Lines

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Author: Anne McCaffrey
Elizabeth Ann Scarborough
Publisher: Bantam UK, 1994
Del Rey / Ballantine, 1994
Series: Petaybee: Book 2

1. Powers That Be
2. Power Lines
3. Power Play

Book Type: Novel
Genre: Science-Fiction
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Synopsis

The miraculous and mysterious world of Petaybee was to be investigated. No-one - no-one outside Petaybee, that is - could believe that the planet was a living, breathing sentient entity, that every plant and animal was in symbiotic communication with the spirit of the Petaybean world. Matthew Luzon was one of the investigators, an arrogant, wily, manipulative man who didn't believe there was anything in the universe that couldn't be controlled by hard scientific methods. His plan was to crush Petaybee, strip it of its mineral assets, and subdue or destroy the inhabitants.

Major Yanaba Maddock - who had been sent to Petaybee to die, but who now understood its secretive curative powers - with the help of Sean Shongili, Clodagh, and all the gifted ones of Kilcoole, was determined to fight for their world.

It was a battle in which every human, every plant, and every secretive telepathic creature - most especially the famous orange felines of Petaybee - was to be put at risk. Luzon was determined to destroy them - whatever the cost.


Excerpt

SpaceBase occasionally still rumbled underfoot, as if to remind everyone that Petaybee planet was by no means pacified. The riders from Kilcoole village had kept well to the wooded trails farthest from the steaming, freshly thawed river, now merely rimmed with ice like a frosting of salt along the top of a glass. Several times on their journey, the planet shook and shifted, as if telling them of the urgency of their mission, but by now the Petaybeans calmly accepted the planet's new mood.

Major Yanaba Maddock, Intergal Company Corps, Retired--well, mostly retired, anyway--looked around at the faces of her lover and her new friends and neighbors. Their own mood was both happy and expectant as they dismounted in front of the SpaceBase headquarters building. Clodagh Senungatuk, Kilcoole's healer and one-woman information center, dusted her divided skirts while her curly-coated horse gazed impassively as flurries of its freshly shed hairs floated on the unseasonably warm air.

Sinead Shongili, Yana's own beloved Sean's sister, assisted Aisling, Clodagh's sister, from the saddle while Buneka Rourke held the reins of her Uncle Seamus's and Aunt Moira's horses as they dismounted. The churned mud that formed the roads at SpaceBase was dotted with stones and boards and pieces of metal to be used as steps. Hopping from one of these to the next, the party of Petaybeans made their way into the building.

They all had such high hopes for this meeting, Yana thought, almost with irritation. Personally, she hated meetings. Always had. Most of them provided no more input than could be contained in a two-second burst on a comm link. Waste of time, ordinarily. She took a deep breath and neatly tucked in the shirttails of the uniform blouse that Dr. Whittaker Fiske had suggested might be the politically tactful costume for the occasion. Partisan as she was, she was the most neutral person attending the meeting. While the company she kept announced her leanings, the uniform would remind the bosses of her long-standing affiliation with Intergal.

Sean Shongili, sensing her tension, reached up briefly to knead the back of her neck, and she gave him a nervous smile. As the chief geneticist for this area of the planet, Sean was a key member of the Petaybean delegation. He and the others seemed to think that it was predestined that the company men would see reason and accede to the requirements of their planet and its people. Sean, who despite his profession was no more experienced at being a prospective parent than she was, had already suggested that her premeeting trepidation was in part at least a hormonally stimulated response. He was wrong, but as he had been born and bred on the planet, she could hardly expect him to understand.

Petaybeans gathered only to entertain themselves and each other or to discuss a problem and arrive at a consensus for solution. Company meetings were far more often power plays where the issue was secondary to whose view prevailed. But then, Yana had never before been to any meeting where the issue was the survival of a sentient planet and its people.

Two deep breaths, and she followed Sean into the building and on into the conference room. As the Petaybeans and Yana entered, Dr. Whittaker Fiske stood, forcing the other dignitaries to do likewise. Here most of the cracks from the earthquakes had been sealed. The screens along the walls were still slightly askew on their brackets but functional. There wasn't enough seating for all the Petaybeans who had been invited, but the major players ringed the beautiful table, handcrafted from native Petaybean woods.

As nominal chairperson, Whittaker Fiske sat in the center with his son, Captain Torkel Fiske. Yana, Sean Shongili, Clodagh, and the Petaybean survivors of the last ill-fated exploratory mission sat to the left of the Fiskes; Francisco and Diego Metaxos and Steve Margolies were placed to the right, along with various other company dignitaries. The latter looked considerably more confused than the Petaybean group, who were, to a person, optimistically resolute.

A bare half hour later, when the comm link with Intergal Earth had been established, the optimism on many faces had been replaced with disgust and dismay at the unreasonableness of certain officials.

"And you actually have the unmitigated gall..." declared the occupant of the main screen, Farringer Ball, the secretary-general of Intergal's Board of Directors, "to tell me that the planet is making these demands on us?" His round, fleshy face had taken on a reddish orange hue.

Yana thought some of that color had to be generated by the faulty connection or the disrupted innards of the comm screen. No human flesh could turn such a shade.

"Yes, Farrie, that's what I'm saying," Whittaker Fiske replied, smiling gently as a fond parent might to an erring child. "And I've proof enough that I haven't lost my marbles or melted my circuits or any damned thing else you can think up to account for such a--" Whittaker Fiske paused and grinned before he added, "delusion. Delusion it isn't!" He said that with no smile whatever and a very solemn expression. "We may not have encountered such a phenomenon before, Farrie, but we have now, and I don't need my nose rubbed in it any more than it has been. So let's get on with--"

"We'll get on with nothing, Fiske," Farringer Ball said explosively, and a thick finger rose from the bottom of the screen, followed by a hand that was shaking with anger. "I'm sending a relief company down immediately, with a squad of medics to check out every single--"

"Just be sure none of the company or the medics happen to have Petaybee as their planet of origin," Torkel interrupted.

"Huh? What's that, Captain?" The secretary-general shifted his scowl slightly to Torkel.

"It'll be hard to do, Secretary Ball, since most of your best men and women come from this planet."

"I don't believe what I'm hearing." Farringer turned away from the camera to address others on his end of the communications channel. "We've got a planet issuing orders, respected scientists gone barmy, and now captains telling secretary-generals how to choose reinforcements! This situation is now Class Four!"

"You never were reasonable, Farrie," Whittaker Fiske remarked in an amiably placatory tone, "when you come up against something remotely unusual."

"Remotely? Unusual?"

"Like I said..." Whittaker glanced around the screens at the other people who were attending the conference from a distance. "You can't handle what isn't in the book. This isn't. I came here myself to sort out what looked like a minor glitch. And it's the majorest one I've ever encountered. However, keeping both mind and options open, I'd still like to get on with the substance of this conference. Take a trank, Farrie, and listen, will ya? I'll explain if you stop interrupting me."

"We do owe Whittaker the courtesy of hearing him out, Farringer," said one of the other board members, a woman of elegant bearing and composure. She had a beautiful countenance, sculpted on classic lines that owed nothing to surgical skills. Her black hair waved back to frame her heart-shaped face; even the harsh colors of the comm unit could not hide the porcelain fairness of her complexion, or the clear, bright blue of her eyes. Her makeup was discreet, and the only hint of her high rank was the exotically set firestones that she wore as earrings. Marmion de Revers Algemeine had made several fortunes on "hearing people out." "I rather fancy the idea of a planet knowing what it wants, and doesn't want! Sentience on a vast scale." She leaned forward, elbows on the surface in front of her, and "rested her chin on her fists. "Besides, Whittaker never gives boring reports."

She flicked her glance sideways, but as the speakers were in different offices, at widely separated locations, it was impossible to tell if she was looking at someone in her vicinity or one of the other attendees.

"This won't be the least bit boring, Marmie," Whittaker said, grinning. "Torkel sent me an urgent call that there was a breakdown in the terraforming on this planet--we used Terraform B, the Whittaker Effect, which has never before broken down--so I figured that a simple adjustment would suffice, but I certainly wanted to be on hand..."

"Yes, yes, we know your grandfather developed that program," Ball said testily, flicking his fingers impatiently.

"The point, then, my impatient friend, is that no breakdown has occurred. Unless one counts evolutionary development of a quite extraordinary nature as breakdown." Whittaker said the last triumphantly, and Yana saw some of the Petaybean contingent nodding in agreement and looking relieved.

"Am I missing something here?" Ball demanded. "Have you found a way to extract the minerals we require after all? Or located the missing members of the teams?"

"No, but one surviving team member, who has made quite a spectacular recovery, is sitting here in this room. Dr. Metaxos?"

"Secretary-General Ball." Francisco Metaxos nodded to the screen. Metaxos's hair was now spectacularly white, but otherwise he looked much younger than he had when he was first found, closer to his true age of forty-some-odd years. When Yana had first seen him, she'd thought him a man of seventy or so. The only change that hadn't reversed was the hair. It had been, when he landed, as black as his son's, or so Diego had said.

Copyright © 1994 by Anne McCaffrey

Copyright © 1994 by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough


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