Book: Man-Kzin wars III - The Asteroid Queen

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Chapter XXI

The Jinxian relieved Saxtorph at the end of his watch. Lost in tumult, he barely noticed how she regarded him and forgot about it as he went out.

Oh, hell, he thought, I’m getting nowhere, only churning around in a maelstrom. Before it drags me under, I’d better what? Have a bite to eat, I guess, take a sleeping pill, go to bed, hope I’ll wake up clear-headed.

That he came to the place he did at the minute he did was coincidence. Nobody meant to stage anything. It made no difference, except that he would otherwise have found out less abruptly.

The door to Tyra’s cabin stood half open, Kamehameha Ryan in it. His hair was rumpled, his clothes hastily thrown on, his expression slightly dazed. Saxtorph stopped short. A tidal wave surged through him.

The quartermaster said into the room: “ hard to believe. I never would have I mean, Bob’s more than my captain, he’s my friend, and ”

Her laugh purred. “What, feel you guilty? No need. I enjoy his company, yes, and I had ideas, but he is too much married. Maybe when we are on Wonderland. Meanwhile, this has been a long dry voyage until now. Carita was right, she told me you are good.”

He beamed. “Why, thank you, ma’am. And you are terrific. Tomorrow?”

“Every tomorrow, if we can, until journey’s end. Now, if you excuse, I am ready for happy dreams.”

“Me too.” Ryan blew a kiss, shut the door, and tottered off. He didn’t see who stood at his back.

After a space Saxtorph began to think again. Well. So that is how it is. Du kannst nicht treu sein.

Not that I have any call to be mad at either of them. I’ve got no claim. Never did. On the contrary.

Even so

Vaguely: That’s the barbed wire I’ve been hung up on. Because the matter, the insight that hit me, touches Tyra, no, grabs her with kzin claws, I couldn’t bring myself to consult Dorcas. I couldn’t bring myself to see that she is the one living soul I must turn to. Between us we’ll work out what our course ought to be.

Later. Later.

He walked on, found himself at Peter Nordbo’s quarters, and knocked. The Wunderlander opened the door and gazed at him with surprise. “Hi,” Saxtorph said. “Am I disturbing you?”

“No. I read a modern history book. Thirty years to learn about. What is your wish?”

“Sociability. Nothing special. Swap stories of our young days, argue about war and politics and other trivia, maybe sing bawdy songs, definitely get drunk. You game? I’ll fetch any kind of bottle you like.”

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