“How are you going to take the Skobar outside the ship now?” I asked Ramael. He winced. “We have been allocated an old rust-bucket,” he said. Hazael chuckled.
“Tomorrow morning,” said Michael at the end of the meal, “we leave this ship for Perinent. Please meet at the hotel’s main entrance, at the 85th revolution of our day.” (That was pretty much 9:30am, in Earth money.)
We met. No-one was late, though, as Team Leader, I made sure I came in last.
There were a few gathered to wish us well. Ramael and Hazael, and Olgal with them. And the birdlike guard, in his off-duty clothes, giving me his left-handed salute again.
We got in the ’mobile, rode to the lock, and went outside. All the Team – except me – gasped at the red stars on the one side, and the blue stars on the other.
Then Michael said, “Sorry, I have to put you all to sleep again.”
There was a short hiss of gas, there was pleasure, and there was sleep.
When I woke up, I was still in the Seraphimobile. It was like being in a plane coming in for a difficult landing. Nothing was still. Every moment, I was being moved in one direction or another. I stood up carefully, and looked around. Lily beside me was wide awake. A few of the others were stirring, but most were still asleep.
This part of Perinent was brown, mostly rocks and sand. Though, as I had learned from the Pedia, the area round our camp had plenty of water, buried underneath. The local terrain was flat, although I had seen mountains on the way in from the north.
We landed faster than an Earthly plane, kicking up a cloud of dust. Then Michael put the ’mobile’s nose well up, to about 60 degrees, and we began to decelerate smoothly.
We slowed and stopped outside a long, low building. It was – obviously – a hotel. A single-story hotel. But it was far too big for just the fourteen of us.
“Welcome to Perinent, Camp Two,” said Gabriel.