The next morning. Carmen woke up with Gary Slade's suggestion that she tour Thendara and the nearby countryside buzzing in her head. Today it didn't seem like a bad idea. Except that she felt an urge to explore farther than a few kilometers around the capital. Why not? She had liberty today; she wasn't on the duty roster until 0700 the following morning. That schedule left plenty of time for a private expedition. Flyers were available for rent, and she had enough credits saved up. In space she had little opportunity to spend her pay.
She rushed through a shower and started packing. The surge of activity eased some of the pressure at the back of her mind. Halfway through, she realized what she was doing. She paused to stare at the gear laid out on the deck. What did she want all this stuff for? Five changes of clothes, a first-aid kit, toiletries--You'd think I was going on a week-long camping trip, not an easy day flight. And she'd also made a mental note to requisition a week's worth of rations.
Well, what was so odd about taking precautions? She had to be prepared in case of an emergency landing. This was a rugged world; in some locales, settled communities were small and scattered.
After dressing in a thermal cold-weather outfit, she picked up her blaster. Shouldn't take this. Outside Thendara, it's contraband. But she couldn't stand leaving it behind. She tucked the weapon into her pack.
After breakfast, she signed out for the day. She'd told Gary where she was going but evaded questions from him and her other messmates. And she'd made it clear that she wanted no company. An hour after arising, she was down in the spaceport, checking out a flyer.
The agent, a wiry, brown-skinned man, was dubious of Carmen's plan to travel without a pilot. "Restricted zones, tricky air currents--dozens of things could trip you up. According to regs, you're supposed to have a qualified guide."
Carmen suppressed the urge to scream at the man. "I'm qualified to fly these things. I had the same basic training everybody gets. And I can read a map."
"Letting you go alone is barely legal."
"I can take care of myself. You just relax and forget about it." She peeled off an extra handful of credits to help him forget.
Grumbling, the agent ran her through the checklist on the light, two-passenger plane. He briefed her on the few sectors where outworlders were allowed and had her sign and thumbprint a waiver absolving his firm of responsibility for her fate.
Carmen felt a lightening of spirit as she rose from the ground and pointed the flyer northward. At last she felt that she was moving in the direction she was supposed to go. Supposed? What does that mean? Shaking her head, she turned her attention to the onboard computer and punched up the chart for the landscape below. The areas legally available for sightseeing were indeed limited. She laid in a course toward the Lake of Hali.