|Publisher:||Wings ePress, Incorporated|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.88(d)|
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But McGarrity's voice cut in.
"What's that, Sean?"
"This planet cannot be left in the hands of Maxwell Andrews. There is no alternative to him other than you."
"Sean, I gave that all up when I came here. I've told you about Lydia and how she thought, what she said to me. You and I have other responsibilities."
"Dammit, Culp. Those responsibilities amount to nothing now. We can't go home. Not until all of this is settled one way or another. Soldiers could show up any time. Our farms are just sitting there. Our girls can't leave these rooms. We can't leave these rooms. Gurkha will eventually find out about the soldier Lenny shot or about Andrews' attack. Even aside from Gurkha taking revenge for either of those, that Andrews is going to start an out-and-out war on the planet, if he hasn't started it already."
Culp had no answer. He did not want to take the burden of a second planet onto his shoulders. Just the grandiosity of that thought brought Lyddie back to him. He felt again her scorn at his fantastic dream of righting the wrongs of Earth.
"I don't think you understand--" Culp began.
McGarrity rose to his feet. "I've not known you long, Senator, but, by God, I feel I know you well."
Culp detected McGarrity's right hand trembling as he held it at his side.
"I cannot believe that you, in your heart, don't want to defend us. All of us. Those of us you know and all the inhabitants of this planet you don't know. You've stood up to Andrews. You've stood up to this Bahador Gurkha. The people of Hobson's know you. If you force them to depend on Andrews, this planet will go up in a horrible blaze offire. Everything we have, gone. Everything we've dreamed about, impossible to get."
"Sean, I--" Culp was becoming alarmed at McGarrity's passion. But McGarrity would not allow an interruption.
"You must do it to save Annie. To save Cindy. To save all of us. It has to be you."
"Do, do, do what? What is this magic power you think I have. What can I do?"
"You can lead. People will listen to you. It cannot be Andrews. It must be you. I cannot ... I cannot respect you if you do not do this." McGarrity looked right at him, and his words struck Culp like a rator shot.
"Daddy." Annie called from the doorway. "Come say goodnight."
McGarrity seemed shocked to hear another voice. He looked at the floor in seeming embarrassment, then around the room. He turned and walked to his daughter. They disappeared into the bedroom together.
A moment later Cindy, in Daria's over-sized pajamas, walked through the doorway holding up her pants with both hands and came to Culp. He took her into his lap.
"Daddy, how long do we have to stay here?"
"I don't know, sweetheart. Things are ... all fouled up."
"Can we go home?"
"I'm afraid the soldiers might be waiting for us."
"When will they go away?"
"I don't know."
"What was Mr. McGarrity yelling at you for?"
"You heard him?"
"He wants you do to something. What does he want you to do?"
"He wants me to do something about the Catonians that are causing us so much trouble."
"So do I." Cindy yawned.
"Where are you sleeping?"
"Mr. McGarrity and I are sleeping on the floor in this room."
Cindy nodded. "You'll be here when I wake up?"
"I'm sure I will be. There's no place else to go."
Cindy nodded again. That was enough for her.
Culp saw McGarrity come quietly through the doorway.
"Annie's all tucked in. Want me to tuck you in?"
Cindy shrugged. "Daria can do it. She does it good."
"Not better than me, I hope."
Cindy smiled. "No, just different."
"Okay. Scoot. I'll see you in the morning." He kissed her.
Cindy climbed down from his lap. Culp watched her step briskly into the bedroom, her pant legs swishing around her. The girls' clubhouse. He smiled to himself.
McGarrity had rolled out a sleeping bag and was trying to make himself comfortable.
Culp's bed was a succession of large pillows. He put them into the requisite straight line.
"What do you think happened to those thirty Catonian soldiers when they got to New Hope, Sean?"
"God knows. Whatever happened, it's over by now. I'm afraid all the devils of hell are about to break loose."
"I wish I knew what we could do, Sean. Maybe Andrews' is right. Maybe the only thing to do is kill Gurkha and hope what comes next is an improvement."
"Andrews is not the man to trust. But the Lord helps those who help themselves, Senator. God's will be done."
McGarrity turned on his side and faced away. He pulled the sleeping bag flap over his shoulder. Culp knew he was no longer interested in any conversation. Culp lay down, stared at the ceiling, and thought of the thirty Catonian soldiers meeting Andrews and his forty Fist of God vigilantes. What had happened? Fist of God. The literal fist of God could not have struck him any harder than McGarrity's words had. He played the scene again in his mind. McGarrity was a good and decent man. He could only have good and decent opinions. Didn't that follow? Culp knew what it would take to try to do what McGarrity was demanding. No one knew better than he did ... the talking, the organizing, the arguing, the time. And in this case, above all else, the violence. Violence would be unavoidable. Even if he discounted how much work it would take, work with no assurance of success, he had only to remember Lyddie's words to him. Would he be making the same mistake twice with his life, or would he be doing what he was meant to do? Was he part of some plan, maybe even the plan of McGarrity's God? He'd need to have an awfully high opinion of himself if he was going to go the way of that second option, he knew.
He turned on his side and closed his eyes, not that that would help him fall asleep. It was going to be a long night, and he didn't know what the morning would bring.