Taggert looked out the stagecoach window and noticed at long last they neared the end of the line. The sign they passed read, “Welcome to Wallisville. Don’t start none, won’t be none. Sheriff Mackenzie Kilmeade.”
The passenger sitting next to him saw the sign, too. He said, “A girl sheriff? What’s this world coming to?”
Taggert smiled, but kept his thoughts to himself. The fellow obviously did not know anything about Kilmeade.
Almost a month had passed since Benson stormed the Governor’s Mansion. Firefighters quickly extinguished the blaze, saving the house. Seldom issued an immediate pardon for Kilmeade, in light of her actions at the very end. Kilmeade asked for and received pardons for the remaining crew still out in the wilderness.
There were not many survivors. Taggert listed the names in his mind: Vargas, Ong, and Kang. All had suffered injuries. Kang had come closest to dying.
Taggert also knew Vargas was responsible for the deaths of at least two police officers.
But Seldom wanted peace. All four sailors promised to never take up arms against Halcyon again, and she pardoned them. They promptly left the city.
Kilmeade showed up on the radar almost immediately, moving back to Wallisville. If Taggert guessed correctly, the others were here, too. They were likely prospecting for gold along with everyone else in Wallisville. Somebody here in the town had the idea of making Kilmeade the sheriff. Or maybe it was her idea.
The stagecoach came to a stop in front of the general store. The door opened and people stepped out. A small crowd gathered to see the new arrivals.
Taggert spotted Kilmeade immediately. She stood to one side, examining everything going on. She wore a wide-brimmed hat and a tin star on her chest. Two pistols were strapped around her waist.
“A teen-aged girl sheriff?” the other passenger said next to him, a tone of incredulity coloring his voice.
Taggert chuckled. He said, “You don’t want to tangle with that one.”
He walked down the wooden sidewalk toward her and tipped his hat.
“You, ah . . . would not answer the Governor’s telegrams. She sent me out here to talk to you face to face.”
“I’m not interested in returning to the big city, Mr. Taggert. I’m going to stay out here. I’ve got a job to do now, too.”
Taggert looked around the small town. The passengers had already dispersed as had most of the crowd. He could see the end of the street, where a solitary church marked the town’s edge.
“I imagine you could take some time off, if you wanted.”
“What does the Governor need me for, Mr. Taggert? Her telegrams were vague.”
Taggert nodded, expecting the question. Indeed, he had not made a ten day journey out to the edge of civilization without expecting extensive questioning from her.
“We were going through some old records. Most of them, most of what we had access to, were paper. There wasn’t much. Somebody decided to fire up one of the old pocket computers used to store additional data. We don’t do that too often on account of the fact we haven’t found a way to replenish power cells yet. Although, we’re working on that. In fact, they might have already solved the problem by now, while I’ve been on the road.
“Anyway, in browsing through this data from right before the war, we discovered something. The League left behind some equipment in orbit. We presume it’s still up there and serviceable.”
The defiance and negative posture Kilmeade had adopted earlier dissolved. Now she looked at Taggert with interest.
“What did they leave?”
“A number of things, including a service platform for spaceships with a full contingent of bots and other things that would be useful for whenever they return.
“But most intriguing to the Governor and her staff . . . they left an orbiting transmitter for the quantum matrix.”
He stopped and grinned at her, noting the expression on her face.
He said, “I have your attention, now, don’t I?”
“Why couldn’t she have said that in the telegrams? She would have had better luck in grabbing my attention that way instead of sending you all the way out here.”
Taggert shrugged. He said, “We don’t really want to advertise the fact just yet. Might get people’s hopes up. The platform is in orbit, but we have no receiving equipment down here on the surface.”
“So, what does she want me to do?”
“Well, a couple of things came to mind. One is, you or someone in your remaining crew might know how to turn the thing on. Second, I know your pilot died in the assault on the mansion. Curly, was it?”
“Yeah. You were the one who killed him.”
“Right. Sorry about that. Well, not really. But anyway, Governor Seldom thinks maybe one of you four knows how to fly your ship’s transport up into orbit to actually get to the satellite.”
“Essentially, she wants us to do all the work.”
“Pretty much. That was the idea, yes. And seeing as how she let you all go without hanging you or anything, she expects you to respond in the positive.”
Kilmeade snorted, although privately she had to concede he had a point.
Out loud she said, “The biggest problem with the whole cockamamie plan is the transport is low on power. We figured taking it into Winthrop would be a one-way trip.”
Taggert nodded in understanding. He said, “Like I said, we’re working on that. Another thing we found on the pocket computer of high interest were schematics for recharging power packs from a variety of electrical sources.”
Kilmeade’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. Taggert nodded.
He said, “When I left they were very close to figuring it out. As you know, we built coal-fired power plants early on. They are messy, and foul up the air around Winthrop. But everybody knows they are only temporary until we can get cleaner power. So we tolerate them.
“Anyway, I’m told that battery technology was one of the last things to substantially improve. It wasn’t until people shifted from metal storage solutions to things like graphene batteries that we really started to see improvements back in the day. Then regenerative capabilities were developed, such as the power cores used on spaceships.
“So, we have the problem of finding a way to transmit simple electricity into a modern power pack. I’m told that we have some brilliant engineers, though, and they are working on a way to develop a coupling that should do the trick. In fact, they should have a working prototype by the time we get back to Winthrop.”
The corner of Kilmeade’s lips quirked up at this last statement. He was taking it as a given she would return with him.
And she might, she thought to herself. This did not appear to be a trick. If they wanted to capture her, if the Governor changed her mind about the pardon, they knew where to find her. No, this seemed legitimate. People don’t just take a ten day stagecoach ride for nothing.
“Let me talk to the others, Mr. Taggert. I’m just a junior officer. Or, I was. I was a lowly ensign, learning how to give orders, not doing any real work on the ship.”
“Come on, there’s got to be more to it than that.”
“There is, there is. But, there’s a reason a ship has so many crewmembers. People have specialized tasks. And if you need an engineer, I’m not the best candidate. Let me ask the others, and I’ll get back with you.”
“Okay. I’d like to leave on the stage going back in the morning, though. I hope you and whoever else is interested are on it with me.”
“We’ll see, Mr. Taggert. No promises. But, I think maybe some of us will try and help out.”