nician answered in a voice flat with focused
Amos touched the pickup in his ear and turned back to
the low hills ahead. They were covered in pine forest, or
had been, until about an hour ago. Now they were burn-
ing, a furnace of resin-fueled candles fifty meters high.
The invaders had barred their own way with the blast of
beam-fire from the aircraft, but they seemed lazily indif-
ferent about inflicting casualties on their own forces. Hie
Bethelite nobleman ground his teeth in fury at that lord-
ly disdain; unfortunately, it seemed justified.
For now. Most of the resistance to the Kolnari
invasion had come from Bethel's planetary con-
stabulary, and the Guardians of the Temple. Those few
who didn't see the invasion as punishment for the sins
of godless young Amos ben Sierra Nueva and his fol-
lowers had, of course, resisted. The faithful had
effectively offered their throats to the pirate knife.
Sheer luck that Amos and those followers had been
preparing even if their efforts had been made against
the day when the Guardians came for them.
beside Amos in the rear seat of the pickup. Joseph ben
Said was a commoner N worse than that, a bastard
from the slums of KerissNbut he had been the first of
Amos' followers, and had proved to be the most loyal.
Not to mention certain skills, Amos reminded himself.
"Take me forward to the bunker," he said, and cut off
Joseph's protest with a brusque chop of his hand.
swayed as the driver gunned the fans and slid the
vehicle down the dirt track. He was inexperienced;
they all were. The Second Revelation had trained in
secret with their hoarded weapons, preparing for the
Second Exodus to Al Mina. Official Temple policy held
there was no need to venture beyond Bethel when
three centuries of valiant breeding left the Chosen still
thin on the ground in the initial area of settlement.
There had been no time to acquire much real skill with
the tools of destruction. The measures had been
insurance, really, in case the Elders actually were will-
ing to use force to prevent the settlement of the Saffron
system's other habitable planet
were a native variety; candlestick trees, they were
called. They were explosively flammable this time of
year, and the air was thick with the heavy resinous
smoke. Dust spurted from under the car as they swung
behind the bunker, just now thrown up with farming
machines and covered with raw dirt The driver backed
and then let the vehicle settle on its flexible skirt, keep-
ing the fens running and the gunner's line of sight just
over the top of the mound.
shoulder before he hopped down and ducked to enter
A display film had been tacked to one wall. It showed
footage from a pickup located a kilometer down the
road. Haifa dozen men and women in coveralls and
caps were talking into communicators or hovering
over a schematic display on a rickety camp table. In the
bunker, the air was full of a crackling tension, louder to
the nerves than the burning forest was to the ears.
THE CTTY WHO FOUGHT 3
Amos nodded \o...the officer, he reminded himself. No
longer friends and retainers, but warriors.
an info-systems specialist, rare for a woman on Bethel,
where most females held to traditional feminine
careers like medicine or literature, Joseph made her a
"You are well, lady?" he said.
She gave a curt nod, then turned back to Amos.
"They hit the forest with some sort of indirect-fire
incendiary weapon, and now they are advancing
through it Powered vehicles. Fusion-bubble neutrino
signatures, fairly heavy ones."
"They probably do not know how common bad fires
are here," Amos said. He worked a tongue in a mouth
gone dry. Bethel vehicles used stressed-storage
expected. She had a violent temper, and he suspected a
buried streak of hysteria. She was also a daustrophobe:
the bunker would add that distress to her burdens. The
more credit to her, for conquering her phobia.
"They thought to mask their approach in the
flames," he said aloud.
infantry. Even a few hours had shown how the
strangers reacted to a challenge: strike back immedi-
ately with overwhelming power. He cleared his throat
and asked calmly:
"How far are they from the mine?"
"Two kilometers and closing. Closing at twenty kph.
trembled. That meant something was shaking the
ground under the pickup, even though it was spiked to
solid rock. Hills rose on either side ahead, everything
beside it, down at the base of the massive granite slopes.
Shapes were moving through the burning trees on the
lower slopes. Dull-gleaming shapes, hard to make out
against the background, as if the surfaces were adapt-
ing themselves, chameleon-fashion, as they moved.
Low turtle-backed outlines, with long weapons jutting
from their sloped forward plates, the barrels built up
from coils or rings, some sort of wave-guide or
bright even through the hot-iron glow of the fires. The
viewscreen fogged slightly as a pickup was blasted into
plasma, then cleared as the system compensated by
spreading input from the others.
"Well, that gives us a due to the sensitivity of their
detectors," Joseph said. He leaned forward. "Everyone
is out of there?"
"Falling back to the launching ground. There is
nobody within fifteen kilometers," Rachel said. "We are
"Do it, then," Amos said.
She touched a control surface. The screen flashed
white and went blank. Haifa second later an actinic
glare flashed through the bunker, reflected in from the
rear entrance but still bright enough to make their
goggles darken protectively. Sound and shock followed
in a few heartbeats: a roar like God returning in anger,
an earthquake rumble through the soil, then a wave of
heat and pressure making their ears pop.
"Tamik saw it He said the flash was like the sword of
God, and the waves a kilometer high when they broke
over the Peninsula mountains."
at the watch woven into his sleeve. There was nothing
else to say. Rachel's family had lived in Keriss, the
THE CITY WHO FOUGHT 5
capital city of Bethel. So had most of Amos' surviving
kindred, and Joseph's, if he had any. "We will rendez-
vous in forty minutes at the shuttle." He paused. "And
already flattening out high in the stratosphere.
message out of the interstellar background and passed
it through to the controller of Station SSS-900.
"Hissing again, are we?" Simeon muttered absendy
at the subprogram, and turned his attention back to
Napoleon had just pushed the British north of Not-
tingham. Wounded, exhausted soldiers sprawled
across the fields where the defeated army camped, as
the rain drained down, gray skies darkening over
trampled muddy fields. Away across the rolling
landscape fires still flickered, where dead men lay
gaping around smashed cannon. The women were out
with lanterns, looking for their husbands and sons.
tent with news of the Jacobin uprisings in Birmingham
and Manchester, and a landing of the Irish rebels. The
big beak-nosed man stood in the open flap of the tent
as the dripping militiaman saluted clumsily and
handed over the dispatches, blinking in the driving
"The devil with it," he muttered, turning to the map-
table within and unfolding the heavy wax-sealed
papers. "It's too bad. If we'd won that last battle ... if
wishes were horses, beggars would ride. Still, it was a
damned near-run thingNa very near thing."
He looked up. "You are to inform His Majesty that he
and the royal family must take ship for India
folding desk "N are for Viceroy Arnold in Calcutta."
tion back to the lounge and looked down at the big
holotable. An excellent model for use in war-gaming,
the map of England was scattered with unit symbols.
Finer and finer detail could be obtained by magnifying
individual sectors N right down to die animate models
of soldiers and horses. Or tanks and artillery, for some
of the other games. He focused: on a horse tiredly nip-
ping at its neighbor on the picket line, on the stubbled
gap-toothed face of a sentry yawning.
peripherals; tightbeam signal, modulated subspace
waves, picked up by one of the passive buoys out on the
fringes of the system. A subroutine had flagged it as
Hmmm, he thought. Odd. It might just be the last
fading noise from a leaking mini-singularity about to
go pop. The things tended to cluster in this area, which
was full of third-generation stars and black holes,
though this one tasted like a signal. The problem with
that was that there was nothing much out that way;
nothing listed as inhabited for better than two hundred
lights. Certainly no traffic into the sphere of Space Sta-
tion Simeon-900-X's operations. He would have to see
if anything more came of it. Presumably if someone
was calling, they would try again.
Idly, he ran a checklist of station functions. Life-
support was nominal, of course; any variation of that
was red-flagged. One hundred seventy-two craft of
various sorts from the liner Altair to barge-tugs were
mineral powders were in transit, in storage, or under-
going processing in SSS-900-X's attendant
fabrication modules. Two new tugs were under con-
struction in the yard. A civic election was underway,
with Anita de Chong-Markowitz leading for council-
rep in station sector three, the entertainment decks.
Death in the Twenty-First was still billing as most
popular holo of the month. Simeon sneered mentally,
with a wistful overtone. Historical dramas were
impossible for a serious scholar to watch because the
manufacturers would not do their research.
With the connectors, shellperson Simeontyos SSS-900-X.
Little awareness remained of the stunted body inside its
titanium shell in the central column of the lounge. He
was the station, and any weakness or failure was, like
pain, intense and personal. As far as his kinesthetic sense
was concerned, he was a metal tube a kilometer long, with
two huge globes attached on either end.
ship with his usual efficiency but without his usual
close scrutiny. He deliberately turned his attention
away from disembarking passengers, refusing to study
their faces, especially the faces of the women.
Radon's replacement as Simeon's brawn was on this
ship, and all he knew was her work record and her name.
Channa Hap. Probably from Hawking Alpha Proxima
Station, Hap being a common surname for those born in
that ancient and wealdiy community. He wasn't entirely
sure. He'd fought Radon's retirement too hard to have
much personal interest in his replacement All right, I was
sulking, he told himself. Time to get with the program. He'd
established a subroutine to trash the applications of
replacements. That hadn't been personal, merely a ploy.
linked globes diat made up the station. The tube was;
kilometer long and half diat wide, more than enougl
for the replenishment feeds and a debarkation loungi
fancy enough to satisfy die station's collective vanity
twenty meters on a side and fifteen high, lined witi
murals, walled and floored with exotic space-minec
stone, with information kiosks and everything else <
visitor needed to feel at home.
"I'm Channa Hap," a woman said to one of th<
kiosks. "I need directions to Control Central."
length curling dark hair.
had a mellow, commanding voice syndied from several
of Simeon's favorite actors, some of whom dated back
to the twenty-fourth century. "Do you wish trans-
"If diere's no hurry, I'll walk. Might as well get used
to the new home."
her; tall, athletic. Dressed plainly in a coverall, but she
had presence. Nice figure, too, if you liked subde curves
and rolling muscle. A fox.
a request for admittance. Feeling as nervous as he had
when meeting his first brawn, Simeon said, "Come,"
and die door swished open.
he thought of as normal conversational distance. That
was an advantage sometimes, since softshells couldn't
get to their psychologically comfortable distance widi
you. She had delicate, clear-cut features and earnest
dark eyes, and the curly black hair was swept back from
her face in a disciplined no-nonsense fashion. A
ArmeMcCaffrey 6f SJVf, Stirling
vid-show heroine. Perfect! he thought FUget things off on
the right foot. He switched on a screen with his own
"face" N the way he'd imagined it, ruggedly handsome
with a tan, a Heidelberg dueling scar, level gray eyes,
dose-cropped blond hair and a Centaurijets fen cap N
and spoke aloud:
hear them ping on the deck as they fell through a short
Ah, geesh, he thought, this is going realty well. "Urn, I
meant it as a compliment." Why didn't they send me a male
brawn? he asked himself, conveniendy forgetting his
request form. Male bonding he knew about
compliment that I'm particularly fond of receiving."
seems to be a bitch. "What sort of compliments do you
accept?" he asked in a tone of forced jocularity which
wasn't easy to manage through a digital speaker.
ability, and my efficiency, or that acknowledge I'm
doing a good job," she said, moving further into the
room and taking a seat before his column. Until she
had finished speaking, she did not look directly at
"The sort of compliment you'd give a servo-
mechanism, if you gave servo-mechanisnis compliments,''
"Exactly." She smiled sweedy and folded her hands.
laying a little stress on the ancient honorific. If she wants
to get formal, Ftt show her formal. "Most of the women
THE CITY WHO FOUGHT 1 ]
I've worked with didn't object to an occasional compli-
ment on their appearance."
"Perhaps if they objected you simply dismissed it as
being part of an 'attitude."
tcoiddcry, iffcouldcry, Simeon thought He'd gotten
lonely these last weeks without Tell Radon. He'd
begun to anticipate the^/un he'd been going to have
with a new brawn. Someone to talk to.... How could
they have matched him with this... ice princess? They
knew he was easy going, sure, but he'd given them a
very good idea of what he was looking for in a brawn.
Exact specifications, which Channa Hap hadn't met,
fully. Was someone in Central taking advantage of his
good nature, somehow hoping he could straighten her
out, or maybe loosen her up?
"I find your attitude rather interesting," she mur-
mured, narrowing her eyes. "Have you checked your
hormone levels recendy?"
"That's a rather personal remark...." Maybe they just
want me to blast her out an airlock when nobody's looking.
"That was a compliment, intended to put you at ease.
Have you checked your own hormone levels lately?"
There was silence.
After a moment she sat forward and looked at him
levelly. "Look, even though it hardly seems worth the
trouble of officially submitting my orders to you, on a
practical level we may as well just admit that, for the
time being, we're stuck with each other. You need a
brawn and I'm here. I'm well trained, experienced and
hard working. We don't have to love each other to work
distance with someone you see every day. It would be a lot
easier if we could be friends. Look, why don't we just
Awu McCaffrey fcf SM. Stirling
erase what just happened and start over? Whaddaya
She pursed her lips, then smiled. "I'm game. But let's
start slow, and we'll avoid the personal remarks for the
time being, okay?" She cocked her head at him and
raised an eyebrow. "You start."
"Nah, I always have time for a pret... colleague."
He detected a slight narrowing of her eyes. "My, you
sure are efficient looking."
"Funny, I was just about to say the same thing about
She stood up. "This isn't going to work."
"My fault. I shouldn't have said that. Look, you must
be tired from all the travel you've been doing. Why
don't you settle in, look around, relax a little N things
might look different"
"This has nothing to do with my being tired or your
"Shut-up-and-listen-to-me." Channa was giving him
a look that he could almost feel. She paused and held
up her hands, sitting down again. 'Just listen," she said
earnesdy. "1 think that it would be best if we put our
cards on the table. I haven't studied your files in full
yet," she admitted with a tired smile. "I just couldn't
make myself do it But I do know quite a bit about you."
She leaned back and crossed her long legs. "I know
that you have a fair amount of influence and a lot of
contacts at Central Admin. And I know that you called
on just about all of them in the matter of your brawn
replacement" She gave him a severe look. "You made
yourself famous on just about every level."
have to do with her?
up," she continued.
tacts at Admin. And they've told me that you came up
with a list of qualifications that were extremely hard to
fill. In fact, I was the only candidate who did fit them,
with the glaring exception of the age qualification. I
hear that I'm four years too young for this post."
went over my service records looking for black marks, and
that when you couldn't find them, you went looking for
shadows that you could pretend were blackmarks...."
holding up one finger. "Then you can have your say. I'm
not going anywhere." She looked at his image on the
screen for a moment with narrowed eyes, and when he
remained silent she nodded. "I've been told that all you
need do to ruin the day of almost any Admin executive is
to mention my name. The feeling you appear to have left
behind you as the smoke cleared on this was that where
there's smoke, there's fire. And that if you, well-known
and respected brain that you are, would object so
strenuously to my assignment to the SSS-900, despite the
feet that I fit all but one of your many qualifications, then
there must indeed be something seriously wrong with
"Oh." He honestly hadn't thought about that He'd
been so intent on saving Tell from forced retirement
that no other considerations had seemed important.
Channa Hap as a person had never entered into his
probably wasn't personal."
"I told myself to keep an open mind. If you had only
greeted me as a fellow professional, then I think I could
have let the whole mess be forgotten. But the first