Exchange of Hostages

Exchange of Hostages

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by Susan R. Matthews, Gregory Bridges

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A promising young surgeon, Andrej Koscuisko has come, with great reluctance, to study at a military orientation center adrift in black space. Against his will, he will train here to serve as a "Ship's Inquisitor" — a vocation that runs counter to his deepest moral convictions.

During his tenure, Andrej will earn the devotion of his personal slave. He will

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A promising young surgeon, Andrej Koscuisko has come, with great reluctance, to study at a military orientation center adrift in black space. Against his will, he will train here to serve as a "Ship's Inquisitor" — a vocation that runs counter to his deepest moral convictions.

During his tenure, Andrej will earn the devotion of his personal slave. He will gain the grudging respect of the Station Administration. He will make a deadly enemy of his fellow student. He will learn a frightening truth about himself. And ultimately, he will be forced to sacrifice all that he holds dear...

Author Biography: After earning an undergraduate degree in psychology, Susan R. Matthews was commisioned into the United States Army, where she was the operations and security officer for a combat support hospital specializing in nuclear, biological, and radiological warfare. Currently working as an auditor for an aerospace manufacturer, Susan lives with her partner in Seattle, Washington.

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HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
4.20(w) x 6.84(h) x 1.06(d)

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Andrej Koscuisko stood at the view-port watching with dread as the ship neared the Station. There was a signal at the talk alert; sighing, he keyed it.

"Yes, Danitosh."

The Station came closer moment by moment, a bleak life less piece of galactic debris with a self-contained school for potential Ship's Surgeons sprawled over its surface. He didn't like it; but there was no sense in making things harder on the crew of this ship than they already were. It was simply their bad luck that the Pride of Place had been going in the same direction as the disgraced son of the head of the Koscuisko familial corporation, just at the time the ship had been ready to leave.

"Cleared through to off load, Your Excellency. You're to be met. A Tutor named Chonis expects to be greeting you."

"Yes, very good," Andrej murmured halfheartedly. He was late arriving. He hadn't wanted to come. He was more frightened of what awaited him than he thought he'd ever been in his life. He couldn't take his eyes off the view-port, consumed with apprehension as the ship neared for landing.

Ugly piece of rock.

Ugly Station.

Grim cold utilitarian dock-port, the ship's tugs at least eight years old, and all alike. Fleet resources. Fleet Orientation Station Medical, where potential Ship's Surgeons all had to come to learn how to Inquire.

If he'd guessed beforehand what his father would wish, would he have completed his medical training?

He was here now, and there was no help for it. He would do what was needful. His father had said the word. That was all.

Gathering up his documents-case, Andrej quickly leafed through flimsies one final time. How to salute. How to speak to a Tutor. How toconduct oneself as a Student, soon to become a Chief Medical Officer. CMO was all very well, a position of significant influence and power on a cruiserkiller class warship upholding the Judicial order in the space-lanes. Any young surgeon would jump at the opportunity.

It was only that he did not want to Inquire.

The wait-room on the loading docks was small, almost cramped, even with only two people sharing it; and one was Security. Curran hardly counted. There was the smell of too much waste fuel in the air, and more noise than could be comfortably borne for very long without ear-stops for protection. Tutor Chonis suppressed an impatient twitch of annoyance as he stood waiting for his Student to arrive. Just enough time for a final scan through the scroller, and he would be ready for the interview.


Andrej Koscuisko.

Tutor Chonis shut his scroller down and marshaled his thoughts together. First contact, Student and Tutor. This could make or break the entire Term. It was important to get off on a good cycle. There was to be enough stress on Student Koscuisko as the Term progressed without the existence of conflict between him and his Tutor.

"Let's go, then," Chonis said. The telltales on the wall gave notice that the incoming craft had come to rest and was ready to offload. Curran keyed the exit, standing to one side for the Tutor to precede him out onto the apron of the loading dock.

Out on the apron, a maintenance team had taken custody of Koscuisko's personal effects; and there was the Student, standing alone, staring off toward the open end of the maintenance atmosphere.

"Attention to the Tutor," Curran called from behind him, to put Student Koscuisko on notice. Koscuisko looked over his shoulder at that; turning around, he started toward them, not quite hurrying but quickly enough. Once he was within a reasonable distance he stopped, saluting politely. "Student Koscuisko reports at the Fleet's invitation. Tutor Chonis?''

Student Koscuisko was blond and pale, and looked a little on the slightly built side of the Jurisdiction Standard; but Tutor Chonis wasn't taken in. Koscuisko was Dolgorukij. And Dolgorukij packed muscle. It was just that the way they packed muscle wasn't obvious to look at them.

"Good-greeting, Student Koscuisko. I trust you had good transit?"

There was the suspicion of a frown on Koscuisko's face at that, quickly smoothed over. "Thank you, Tutor Chonis." Tenor voice, and pale eyes. Polite enough, though, as was usually the case with aristocrats. "It was a quiet transit.''

Koscuisko knew very well he was late. Koscuisko offered no excuses. On the other hand Chonis hadn't asked for any. "Student Koscuisko, as your briefing states, you are to be under my tutelage. You have only a few months in which to learn all that Fleet will require of you; no time like the present for us to begin. Joslire Curran. Present yourself."

Curran stepped forward from where he had posted himself two paces behind Tutor Chonis, to his left. "At the Tutor's direction." Curran was a little taller than Koscuisko, but not by much; and his face had more contour. Curran was as dark as Koscuisko was fair, even after his years here on Station away from solar browning. Right now Curran was as tense as Tutor Chonis had ever seen him-though Koscuisko might not realize that. Koscuisko was unlikely to have met Emandisan before. Emandisan off-world were almost always Security; and as far as Tutor Chonis knew, Joslire Curran was the only bond-involuntary Emandisan in the Inventory.

"Curran, Student Koscuisko is your officer of assignment for this Term. Student Koscuisko. I'm sure you've noticed that Curran is bond-involuntary." Watching Koscuisko's face, Tutor Chonis caught Koscuisko's quick glance at the telltale green piping on Curran's sleeves. "Curran is tasked by the Administration with seeing to your meals, your exercise, and whatever administrative matters may arise."

Koscuisko regarded Curran with a look of frank and good-natured curiosity, which Tutor Chonis found rather engaging. He hoped that Student Koscuisko and Joslire Curran would sort well with each other. The man deserved a break; last Term had been unusually rough on him. But they couldn't afford to sideline one of their best while Orientation was in session. There weren't enough bond-involuntaries assigned for that.

"The Administration anticipates that you may not have worked with bond-involuntaries before. It's important that you take this opportunity to explore their resources and their limitations."

It would be very unusual if Koscuisko had even met a bond-involuntary, outside of Fleet. There weren't that many of them to start out with.

"Curran will provide you every assistance; you should not hesitate to make any of your needs or desires known to him, howsoever personal. When you are posted to your Command, you can safely anticipate at least one Security team of bond-involuntaries will be assigned to you." In Fleet, bond-involuntaries could be assigned only to Chief Medical Officers, in fact, and to no other officer on staff.

And that about covered things for their first briefing. Nod ding at Curran, Tutor Chonis gave Student Koscuisko his dismissal. "I will see you this evening in Tutor's Mess, where I will introduce you to your fellow Student. Tutor's Mess at sixteen, and be prepared to discuss your background and your interest in the field of Judicial administration. That will be all for now. Curran, you may take your Student to quarters."

Koscuisko saluted with easy grace; Curran gestured politely toward the lift access corridor. "If Student Koscuisko would care to proceed?"

Tutor Chonis watched as they left, Curran giving directions as they went.

He hadn't known quite what to expect from Student Koscuisko.

He wasn't sure he knew any more about him now than he had before this interview.

It didn't matter.

There was no predicting how Students responded to the pressures the practical exercises put on them.

Copyright ) 1997 by Susan Matthews

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