'So what you are saying,' Koro said, cutting through the muttering which had broken out immediately following Arkyna's speech, 'is that we should leave the colony we have built over these years, and return to the world we left behind?'
The muttering died away. Arkyna scowled, and tried not to sigh too loudly. 'No,' she said. 'It doesn't matter where you go, as long as we all leave here. Iyshe, Firnor and I will be going to Alledora, but you may go wherever you are able to.'
'As I understand the wormhole generator, it will only take us to Alledora.' Koro looked at Iyshe for confirmation. The old Psidar nodded.
'It is designed to link to a generator in the Alle star system which is currently inactive, awaiting the construction of the generator here. However, there should be a wormhole route to Irsatis established within the next year, perhaps you could go there if you do not wish to remain on Alledora permanently. I understand that the colony there is thriving, and looking for skilled, enthusiastic people.'
'Thank you. Arkyna, are you sure that we are in immediate danger?'
'Absolutely.' Arkyna swept her gaze across the gathered colonists in the square they'd been using as a catering area since the first storm. 'The alien inhabitants I spoke to do not intend to allow any sentient life to live here which has not reached their state of being. Just the minds of beings such as ourselves cause them great pain to be near to.'
'You believe that they have this capability?'
'Do you think the storms were natural?'
There was a silence. People shifted uncomfortably.
'No,' Koro said. 'I do not.'
'Then believe me. We must leave.'
Koro looked at the other members of the colony's council. Delar was staring at Arkyna, Firnor and Iyshe with open loathing. Koro hadn't felt entirely comfortable around the man since the rumour that he'd tried to murder Arkyna after she'd stopped the second storm had begun to make the rounds. The others appeared more open-minded. He exchanged glances and nods with each of them. Delar was the only one to shake his head.
'Then it is decided. Psidar Iyshe-' that title, used officially for the first time, caused a stir in the crowd. 'Psidar Iyshe, you have our consent and encouragement to construct the wormhole generator. What do you require?'
'The parts were sent through the wormhole which brought my ship here. Although I was caught in Dira Tulag's gravity well before I could make suitable course adjustments and crashed, I have all confidence that the generator components are all present and waiting a construction team to go into orbit and assemble them. I had zero-gravity construction equipment in my ship, but I doubt much of it survived the crash.'
'Would you go to your ship and attempt to salvage what you can? We will send a shuttle to the Tireless to retrieve its complement of repair tools, and use its scanners to locate the generator components.'
Iyshe inclined his head. 'That would be entirely suitable.'
'Everybody not involved in constructing the generator should begin to prepare for departure. We will need food, water and clothing for one month. The Tireless needs to be checked and made ready for departure. You all know your skills. Use them to their best advantage. This meeting is ended.'
People started to disperse, talking among themselves. Arkyna listened to them as they left. Some were calm, talking about the challenges of getting everyone onto the ship and keeping them alive and comfortable for a month of flight time. Others were upset. A few spoke loudly about the stupidity of leaving on the say-so of a Psychic.
'You are, of course, welcome to stay behind if you wish,' Koro called after one such group. 'But I would not expect to survive the first night.'
After that, the dissenting talk was much less audible.
'So,' Iyshe said. 'Are you coming?'
Arkyna stood in the shuttle's small airlock and looked out into space. About two hundred metres in front of her, one of the eight main framework sections for the wormhole generator shone in the sunlight. Her helmet's intercom buzzed.
'Haven't you done a spacewalk before?'
'Once, but not like this!' She jumped out of the airlock and spun away from the shuttle, whooping in the sudden lack of gravity. 'I've always been tethered to the ship before.'
'Just try not to drift off into the sun.' Arkyna got herself under control using her suit's jets, and saw the shuttle's airlock door slide closed. A short while later, it slid open again, and Iyshe pushed himself out of it.
It was a spectacular sight. The shuttle floated against a starry black void, with Dira Tulag visible as a bright jewel in the distance. Arkyna could just about make out one of the other framework sections, and not far from it was a small moving object which was probably a charge coil. The Tireless' scanners had confirmed that all the generator parts were present, so Arkyna, Iyshe and Firnor had taken a shuttle to gather them together and begin the assembly process.
'Why us?' Arkyna had asked at the time. Iyshe had grinned at her.
'Who else can weld things together in the vacuum of space without a torch?'
They'd been unable to find any equipment suitable for welding in space. There had been plenty on Iyshe's ship, but it had been badly damaged by leakage of corrosive fluids from the engines after the crash.
Iyshe fired his suit's jets and guided himself smoothly to the framework segment. He pulled himself around it for a few minutes, inspecting it while muttering over the intercom. Arkyna ignored him and enjoyed the view until he started waving at her.
'Okay,' he said. 'This one's fine. Let's get the next one.'
Arkyna immediately picked out the section which she had seen earlier and drew forth some Psi, spinning it out across the vacuum and into the framework, where it became kinetic energy. The section grew rapidly larger in her vision, then halted abruptly as Iyshe's working of Psi caught it and pulled it down to the first section. The Psidar considered it a moment.
'We're in luck. These two sections are designed to mate with each other.'
He spun the section around with a push of his hand and a tweak of Psi, then pulled it in to slot snugly into place. Arkyna fired her suit's jets to come closer as Iyshe pointed out the points they needed to weld.
'Take these three,' he said. 'I'll do the other three. Try not to make it too hot, you just want the metal to bond, not change its structure.'
'I did listen on the way up here,' Arkyna said. Iyshe had been quite dull as they flew out from Dira Tulag, instructing her on exactly how to go about the welding process.
'It never hurts to make sure,' Iyshe replied. There was a surge of Psi, and bright light flared from one of the joins as the metal welded instantly. Arkyna turned her attention to her own joins, and the welding was soon completed. She smiled through her faceplate at Iyshe.
'Six to go,' she said.
It took three days to construct the wormhole generator. After the first day, during which Arkyna and Iyshe got seven of the framework segments assembled, they enlisted the help of Firnor's Psi and Ashlar's piloting skills. Work then proceeded much more quickly. Ashlar and Firnor located all the components in the shuttle, and Firnor used Psi to bring each of them to the assembly site, where Arkyna and Iyshe worked to put them together.
Once all the pieces were gathered, Firnor joined them at the construction. He refused to attempt welding, pleading a lack of confidence in his abilities, but grew very adept at bringing the enormous charge coils and solar panels into their positions. Once in place, he held them there while Arkyna or Iyshe welded or wired or plumbed the components together.
When the generator was finished, they all sat with some relief in the shuttle and watched it floating against the stars, looking not unlike an enormous metallic flower with its octagonal frame and fans of solar panels around the outside. After several minutes of silence, Iyshe leaned forward and tapped a command into the shuttle's computer.
'It should have picked up enough power from the solar panels by now,' he said. 'Let's see if it responds.'
He touched another control, and the shuttle's computer sent a burst of command codes to the generator's receiver. Moments later, the hazard lights mounted across the structure and on the edges of the solar panels came to life, and a few flares from around the structure marked ion thrusters working to bring the generator into exactly the programmed position. They died down quite quickly, with the shuttle's computer showing that the generator had adjusted its location by no more than two kilometres.
'Not bad,' Ashlar said. 'So how long is it for the charge coils to fill?'
Iyshe checked the telemetry which the generator was now transmitting back to them.
'It's in strong sunlight,' he said. 'It should be able to open the wormhole in about twenty hours. The current flow is enough to keep the entrance open for...' he queried the generator's computers and waited for the results to come back. 'The entrance will be able to stay open for six hours at a time.'
'That's plenty of time to get everyone through.'
'Absolutely. Unfortunately we can't know how long it will take to get to Alledora before the wormhole is opened.'
'At least we'll know before we go into it.' Ashlar powered up the shuttle's engines. 'Let's go and help with the packing.'