No, they cannot follow us directly, Terrell says. A ripple only effects the object that forms it. Of course, the ship COULD track our signal and get a general read on where we're going. But I'm sure Veda would have noticed if they had tagged us. We're safe, for now.
Veda pops up on the screen, the cargo hold visible behind her teal face.
Are you guys coming, or what? she says.
On our way, Lykke says.
The monitor pops off as Lykke waves for everyone to follow her. All patiae and humans (now more or less healed, but for a bit of bruising) are lead to the elevator, which whips them down to the cargo hold. Veda is waiting for them as the door slides open, motioning at a portal on the wall.
Finally, a chance to stretch my legs, she says, little bubbles of cheerfulness rolling over everyone. The portal, a spiral design, opens with a shkksshhhhh as the air of the ship mingles with the air of the airlock.
Come on! Veda says as she steps onto the springy metal tube that hooks the ship to the Base. Her whole body lifts, and her feet barely touch the tube. Gravity's kind of light right here, she says, bouncing off the wall below her and pulling herself towards the door with a set of metal hand holds lining the tube's walls.
The group follows her down the short tube, and the portal on the Base end opens as the portal to the ship closes. Artificial gravity pulls the group down as they exit the tube, and the portal closes behind them. They are in a gleaming hallway lit at the corners, posters littering the walls with a rainbow of colors and slogans in the patia language and cheerful designs of happy humans, happy patiae, smiling suns, swirls of color.
Follow me, Lykke says, leading the group down the hallway. Don't worry, it'll be a quick visit to the head, and then maybe you can get some clearer ans --
The hallway ends, opening on a giant domed room, much like that of a convention center. The hallway alcove is slightly raised, and steps lead down to the room. Many hallways jut off from the room.
The room is absolutely brimming with people. Many patiae and some humans wander through a maze of booths filled with goods: food, clothes, electronics, accessories, furniture, even animals, both earth based and unknown to the humans. The room is strangely silent, but for the sound of shuffling feet and people shifting around people and goods changing hands and the squawks and squeaks of animals. But the heads of the humans explode with conversation: colors, lights, words, images, all rushing from the huge crowd.
Damn it, I forgot the underground market was meeting today, Lykke's thoughts leak through the nonverbal din. It's a good cover, but still. Damn. Okay, everyone, blend in. Gil, you're with me. Gil will give the signal and directions to the meeting place when I contact the Head. You don't have to act Controlled around here. Most everyone is liberal around these parts, and they let their humans walk around with their own thoughts. For the most part. See you soon.
The patiae disperse into the crowd.