Death’s Bright Day – Snippet 47

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This book should be available now so this is the last snippet. Death’s Bright Day – Snippet 47 The shipyard here at Newtown didn’t have enough portable magnaflux equipment to check each weld, so the bosun was using a field … Continue reading

This book should be available now so this is the last snippet.

Death’s Bright Day – Snippet 47

The shipyard here at Newtown didn’t have enough portable magnaflux equipment to check each weld, so the bosun was using a field expedient: if the weld didn’t crack when she slammed it with her maul, the chances were that it would survive lift-off while holding a missile. To reduce stress, the missiles wouldn’t be filled with reaction mass until the ships were out of the gravity well and were accelerating at a fixed direction and rate.

“Captain Leary,” said the bone-conduction speaker of Daniel’s goggles. It wasn’t as good as a commo helmet, but it was better than shouting. “Lady Mundy has arrived at the base of the crane and wishes to speak with you.”

“Roger, Signals,” Daniel said. “I’ll join you immediately in –” he thought for a moment. “In the crane house. It’s as private as you could ask and it’s insulated against sound. Six out.”

He turned back to his companions and said, “Gentlemen, I’ve been called to an urgent matter but I was about done here anyway. I’ll be in touch with you later.”

The lift at the back of the platform had been crowded bringing the four of them up together. Daniel didn’t offer to share it with Pasternak and Ealing going down.

“What’s urgent?” Hogg asked, putting his right hand in his pocket.

“I didn’t bother to ask,” Daniel said, “but I assume there’s something to bring Adele here rather than calling. Besides, I think I learned all I was going to up there.”

I learned that I need to replace Ealing. Who his replacement should be was the tricky question.

At the door of the operator’s cab waited Adele with a man whom Daniel had not met. The fellow wore civilian clothes, but that was the only thing civilian about him.

Tovera came out of the building which she must have been scanning. She grinned at Hogg. The two servants remained outside while Daniel followed Adele and her companion into the cab and closed the door after them. Outside the lift was returning to the platform to pick up Pasternak and Ealing.

The only seat in the crane house was that in front of the control panel, but there was room for six to stand without crowding. Adele said, “Daniel, this is Major Grozhinski, our contact with our employer. If you’ll sit at the display we’ll feed you the data.”

“It won’t be resident on the dockyard system,” Grozhinski said reassuringly.

Does he think that I worry about that? Daniel thought, smiling. He didn’t have to worry about electronic security because he had Adele. Which is good, because I probably wouldn’t worry anyway, and one of these days that could come back and bite me.

Daniel scanned the summary paragraph. How the bloody hell did that happen?

He grinned. That reaction was one stage better than trying to put his fist through the screen.

He turned and stood up again. The display wasn’t the way he preferred to be briefed.

“Adele,” Daniel said. “Master Grozhinski? Will it be possible to get the missiles released to us in time to fit them to the ships here?” He gestured vaguely toward the Montclare and Montcalm without actually turning his head.

“No,” said Grozhinski. “They are Alliance missiles, after all. The Cinnabar government sent them to make its involvement deniable, but the Fleet investigators who demanded that the weapons be embargoed until they’re returned may not realize that their documents are forgeries. Equally, of course, they may be Krychek’s agents.”

“All right,” Daniel said, nodding to indicate that he’d received the information. “Do either of you know of a source for missiles in quantity, even if not the three hundred Minister Forbes provided?”

Outside, work on the freighters — which might not become missile ships after all — continued unabated. The cab’s soundproofing was good — even the double-glazed windows must damp a considerable amount of noise — but it wasn’t perfect.

“I do not,” Grozhinski said.

“Nor do I,” said Adele.

Daniel smiled. It was nice to work with professionals who provided information without hedging it to uselessness. It’s a pity that the information isn’t different, though.

“All right,” Daniel said. “Adele, can you make these freighters appear to be heavy cruisers?”

“Electronically, yes,” Adele said. She frowned. “Visually, only to a very limited degree. It’s a matter of how good the personnel crewing the Upholder ships are. The optics themselves are of adequate quality — the three destroyers are ex-Alliance and the Upholder herself was the Triomphante, built on Karst but from Fleet service.”

“One of the destroyers has an ex-Fleet crew and officers,” Grozhinski said, picking up seamlessly where Adele had stopped. Daniel hadn’t noticed a signal pass between them. “The crews of the other destroyers and the remainder of the Upholder forces generally are either locally raised or from Karst. I suppose they’re equivalent to the Tarbell navy. All major offices in the ground establishment are Krychek’s people.”

Grozhinski glanced down at his data unit. It was live in his hand, but he hadn’t been referring to it and probably wasn’t now.

“The Upholder,” he said, “is a special case. The commissioned officers are mostly ex-Fleet, though only the communications officer is 5th Bureau reporting to Krychek. The bulk of the crew has been recruited from Cinnabar’s empire, however. Most served in the Cinnabar navy during the recent war. Lady Mundy probably has better records than my organization does, but I assume they are skilled. The Upholder’s officers certainly are.”

They’re traitors! Daniel thought. But they weren’t. They were spacers who preferred naval service to merchantmen and who, while the great powers were at peace, had found a corner of the galaxy which welcomed their skills.

They weren’t fighting Cinnabar, and they weren’t fighting for the Alliance. They were spacers taking jobs with piss-pot rebels fighting a piss-pot government, and they probably figured that with a heavy cruiser they were going to come out the winners.

“The rebels are offering considerable premiums to spacers with RCN experience,” Adele said. “I suppose Krychek has agents in most major ports in Cinnabar space.”

“No doubt the pay is coming from the secret account of the First Diocese,” Grozhinski said, nodding agreement. “But without a very careful audit, there’s nothing to suggest Alliance involvement.”

“Right,” said Daniel. “Deniability, like the missiles. But how do the recruits get to Ithaca? That’s the rebels’ capital, isn’t it?”

“It is,” Grozhinski agreed. “Krychek’s Residency on Danziger acts as the transshipment point. The Residency gathers recruits in quantity and ships them to Ithaca, where they’re distributed among the Upholder vessels.”

Daniel smiled slowly. “We were caught by Mistress Sand’s care to be deniable,” he said. “It strikes me that we might return the favor.”

Adele’s smile was probably invisible to anyone who didn’t know her as well as Daniel did. Grozhinski looked from one to the other. He didn’t speak.

“Adele,” Daniel said, “what do you think about subverting the crew of a rebel heavy cruiser?”

“I have nothing better to do with my life,” she said. The joke made her smile more noticeable. “We’ll need a neutral ship.”

“May I offer the Fisher 14?” Grozhinski said. “The owner isn’t exactly neutral in this business, but his involvement would be as hard to trace as the First Diocese secret account.”

They were all three smiling. We must look like a pack of dogs about to start dinner, Daniel thought; and he smiled more broadly.

 


Death’s Bright Day – Snippet 46

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Death’s Bright Day – Snippet 46 CHAPTER 17 Newtown on Peltry Tovera, wearing a chauffeur’s uniform, opened the door of the limousine’s passenger compartment for Grozhinski. He started to get in and only then noticed that Adele was inside waiting … Continue reading

Death’s Bright Day – Snippet 46

CHAPTER 17

Newtown on Peltry

Tovera, wearing a chauffeur’s uniform, opened the door of the limousine’s passenger compartment for Grozhinski. He started to get in and only then noticed that Adele was inside waiting for him. The windows were opaque from the outside.

“Lady Mundy!” he said as the door closed behind him. “Have you been able to alert Minister Robin’s guards?”

The freighter Fisher 14 had reached Peltry orbit three hours before. Its astrogation computer had immediately sent an alert to the Residency, warning that there would shortly be an attempt on Christopher Robin’s life. The immediately following message said that the Resident should arrange for Major Grozhinski to be picked up upon landing and meet Lady Mundy as soon as possible.

“We took care of that yesterday,” Adele said. “The gunmen from Section C arrived before you did and went to work immediately. They were unsuccessful.”

“I’m…” Grozhinski said. “Well, I’m very glad to hear that. I was afraid I would be too late. As I gather I was.”

Tovera pulled into the space at the Residency. The top of the gatepost still lay in the yard. Adele wondered if she should call for brick masons in the Nabis Contingent and have them repair it. She had learned early in her association with the RCN that starship personnel included a wide variety of skills which had nothing to do with their normal duties.

Adele waited until they were within the shielded Residency to say, “I gather that communication in the other direction, from me to your organization, has been delayed also. Master Mignouri has had a stroke. I’ve been acting as your Resident myself. Yesterday I delegated those duties to Midshipman Cazelet. He’s downstairs now.”

Grozhinski stared blankly for a moment, then laughed. He seated himself at the table at the edge of the room and opened his briefcase.

“We’ve been having a run of bad luck, haven’t we?” he said. Adele took the chair across from his. “And one piece of good luck, Lady Mundy: that you’re on hand. Which seems to have been enough. Well, this next item isn’t luck. This was a very clever move by General Krychek, and it took us by surprise.”

The file appeared in Adele’s data unit. She forwarded it to Cazelet upstairs before she even opened it. This was 5th Bureau material — in a way, at least — and if Grozhinski had concerns about it being in the Residency database, it was his job to remove it.

“Umm,” Adele said as she scanned the material. “Danziger is outside both the Tarbell Stars and the Alliance. How were Krychek’s agents able to embargo the missiles?”

The missiles on which the Tarbell Stars were depending had been captured by Cinnabar — captured by Daniel himself — after the Battle above Cacique. Because they were of Alliance design and manufacture, the RCN had declared them surplus to requirements with the cessation of hostilities. Minister Forbes had arranged for their sale to the Tarbell government at the price of scrap metal.

“Danziger is independent, yes,” Grozhinski said, “but when two Fleet investigators arrived with evidence that the missiles had been stolen from Fleet stocks, the local authorities probably didn’t see any choice but to embargo them until the matter could be adjudicated. Which might reasonably be at some time after the Upholders have succeeded in conquering the Tarbell Stars.”

He shrugged. “I don’t say that no money changed hands from Krychek’s agents to the locals,” he said. “But it might not have been necessary.”

“I see,” said Adele. An independent world couldn’t risk being seen as a receiver of war stocks stolen from a neighboring superpower. Cinnabar wouldn’t regard an Alliance punitive expedition to correct the situation as a breach of the Treaty of Amiens.

The stock of top-grade missiles which Cinnabar was sending to the Tarbell Stars had permitted Robin to bypass the generation of neglect which had rotted the Tarbell Navy into a rickety joke. Freighters configured as missile ships weren’t really warships, but they would be sufficient to defeat the Upholders — and that would buy time for the Minister of War to create a real, professional navy to maintain the central government’s sovereignty against internal and external threats.

Without the missiles, the government had no time. Adele smiled faintly. It would be very tempting to add that the government had no chance, either.

“Very well,” Adele said, getting to her feet. “The next step is to bring the matter to Captain Leary. He’s at the dockyard, overseeing the conversion of the freighters Montclare and Montcalm into missile ships.”

“What will Captain Leary be able to do?” Grozhinski said as he closed his briefcase and rose with her.

“If I could answer that question…” Adele said tartly. “I wouldn’t need to talk with Daniel.”

* * *

Daniel stood beside Pasternak and Captain Ealing on the platform of an out-of-service crane, looking down on the refitting of the Montclare. Arc welders snarled as they attached brackets to the hull. Hogg stood far enough back that the actinic radiation was blocked by the floor of the platform; otherwise it would’ve burned holes in his retinas. The three spacers wore goggles.

Six teams were working on the Montclare. There were four more in the next dock on the Montcalm, another fast freighter, to add to the racket.

“The ship’s existing computer will handle missile computations easily,” Daniel said. “My people — ” Cory and Chief Missileer Chazanoff ” — are installing the necessary software, and the yard is adding missile stations.”

These were flat-plate displays rather than full holographic consoles, but they were sufficient for the present purpose. The multiple alternate tracks that a warship’s console could handle were unnecessary: the two government missile ships would only be targeting the rebel heavy cruiser, deluging her with missiles which would either overwhelm the vessel — the Upholder — or drive her from the battle.

“That’s all fine…” said Captain Ealing. “But what if they shoot back? Are you adding cannon so that we can stop incoming missiles? Right now there’s only the one gun station for pirates on each of these freighters.”

Ealing was the civilian captain of the Montclare whom Minister Robin had hired when he bought the ship for the Navy of the Tarbell Stars. Daniel had kept an open mind about whether he would confirm the appointment now that he had been put in command of the navy. However —

Anyone who thought that plasma cannon could stop missiles was probably too ignorant for any naval appointment. Skillfully used, plasma bolts could nudge a missile in a direction which would not intersect with the track which the target vessel intended to follow.

A warhead weighed over a tonne, however. Even if it were vaporized by direct hits, the tonne of vapor would continue on the plotted trajectory and do equal — if varied — damage to the target should they intersect. The trick was to vaporize divots from the warhead’s mass to thrust it out of the ship’s course.

“We don’t have time to fit plasma cannon,” Daniel said, “or to train gunners to naval standards. The missile ships will be defended by the dedicated warships accompanying them.”

He realized he was frowning. “Captain,” Daniel said. “This is a war and there are risks. It is my job to minimize those risks to the degree possible, and it is your job to carry out my orders promptly and to the best of your abilities.”

A sharp Clang! punctuated the arc welders’ pervasive nastiness, followed by another and at length a third and fourth. Woetjans was on the Montclare’s hull with a bronze maul, hammering a freshly welded bracket from both directions.

 


Death’s Bright Day – Snippet 45 Daniel straightened. “Let’s get the stretcher,” he said to Minister Robin. “Then you can take the back end while we haul him to the unit.” Daniel felt enormous relief as he led Robin through the waiting room, shoving people out of the way when they babbled instead of clearing his path. It felt good to work out some of the adrenaline surging through his system. Continue reading "Death’s Bright Day – Snippet 45"

Death’s Bright Day – Snippet 44

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Death’s Bright Day – Snippet 44 “So you did,” Daniel agreed. The door didn’t have an external latch, but there was a large button on the right side of the console. Repeated use had worn the button’s cream enamel finish … Continue reading

Death’s Bright Day – Snippet 44

“So you did,” Daniel agreed. The door didn’t have an external latch, but there was a large button on the right side of the console. Repeated use had worn the button’s cream enamel finish through to the black base.

Daniel leaned over and pushed the button. The door opened outward.

“Hey!” said the clerk, loudly enough to alert the dozing guard. Daniel and Hogg sauntered through without anything more serious happening before the door closed behind them.

“Good afternoon, Minister,” Daniel said as Robin looked up from the flat-screen display facing him at an angle on his desk. “I’m here as you directed.”

Walters rose from his console, then sat back again. Robin made a sour face, but he gestured and said, “Yes, take a seat, Leary.”

Walters eyed Hogg doubtfully, probably wondering what Hogg intended to do. Daniel wondered also as he took one of the chairs in front of the large desk, but Hogg remained at the back of the room.

“I’ve been very pleased with the progress the Nabis Contingent has been making, Minister,” Daniel said, “and I hope you are too.”

“Yes indeed, Leary,” Robin said. He tapped his display repeatedly with a light pen. “Major Berners gave me a quick account of your recent training mission. It shows real initiative and an ability to work with material which must be well beneath the level you’re accustomed to on Cinnabar.”

“Actually, sir,” Daniel said, leaning forward slightly, “the Nabies were solid personnel, very solid. All we cadre did was to show them what they were capable of doing. Ah, and working with the officers some to bring ’em up to speed.”

“Well, you shouldn’t be modest,” Robin said, turning from his display to flash Daniel a bright, false smile. “President Menandros has decided to greatly increase your responsibilities. He’s made you Governor of Nabis, reporting directly to him.”

Are you out of your bloody mind?

For a moment Daniel thought the words had come out of his mouth. They hadn’t, but Robin probably read them in his face.

“Your Excellency…” Daniel said. He closed his eyes for a moment to visualize his next words. Opening them he continued, “Sir, look. My father was the most powerful politician on Cinnabar; he’s still pretty bloody important. My sister Deirdre gives every sign of following him into the Senate, and I’ve never known her to play a game that she didn’t win at.”

Daniel had straightened when Robin pronounced his exile to a backwater. Now he leaned forward again and said earnestly, “Sir, if I wanted to get into politics, I’d go home and join the family firm! But I didn’t, I wanted to be a naval officer and I’m a bloody good one. Put me in charge of ships. Or better, put me in charge of your navy, and I’ll show you what I can do!”

“Captain Leary, I’m sure you’re a very important man in Cinnabar space,” Robin said, his voice rising. “But here in the Tarbell Stars, we’re under the rule of President Menandros, and it’s his decision –”

“President Bloody Nonsense!” Daniel said, rising to his feet. “Look, everybody knows you call the shots. Menandros probably knows if he’s got two brain cells to spare for any serious thinking! That’s fine, but –”

“That’s enough!” Robin said as he stood. He crossed his arms before him. Walters had gotten up also and was edging closer to Daniel from the side. If he tries to jump me, I’ll break his face.

Hogg, glimpsed in the polished metal surface of the side of the desk, remained by the door; nothing in the present situation required him to intervene. Though Hogg acted the simple hayseed, he had a very sophisticated grasp of urban society. He wasn’t going to precipitate a brawl which could not have a good result.

The door from the waiting room opened. The clerk outside was babbling something in a high-pitched voice. Walters turned to the disturbance, and Daniel glanced over his shoulder.

A heavy-set balding man in a blue servant’s uniform had entered. A tall man and a short one, both in business suits, were behind him.

“Dumouret, what in bloody hell are you doing here?” Robin shouted.

“Minister,” Dumouret said, “I’m very sorry to disturb you, but the President –”

The short civilian shot Hogg in the chest. Hogg flew into the wall behind him, thrown when his legs spasmed.

The shooter’s tunic pocket was smoldering, ignited by the vaporized aluminum driving band of the slug fired from inside it. The taller civilian was taking a sub-machine gun out of his briefcase.

Daniel grabbed Dumouret by wrist and thigh. He pitched the butler into the tall man, who in turn bumped the shooter off balance. Walters had frozen for a moment with his mouth open, but now he lunged at the shooter.

The pistol was now clear of short man’s burning pocket, and he shot Walters twice through the breastbone. He pivoted toward Daniel, who tripped over Dumouret’s flailing legs.

The shooter sprawled forward though he continued to turn. There was a fleck of blood on his right temple and a long bloody crease at the top of his head where the second pellet had gone a little high.

The taller man had risen to a kneeling position. At the crackle of Tovera’s sub-machine gun, he collapsed again over his own weapon.

The door to the rear entrance hit the wall and began to swing closed again behind Adele and her servant. Robin peeked up from behind the desk where he had dropped to shelter.

The air stank of ozone and feces and fear. Also of blood: Walters lay on his back. He had stopped bleeding, but the tunic of his white uniform was a crimson which would darken as it dried. His eyes were open and his lips drawn back in a grimace of horror.

Daniel tried to get to his feet, then fell onto all fours and crawled toward where Hogg lay. He felt icy inside. He wondered if he’d been physically injured.

“Do we need the butler?” Tovera said. Daniel heard all sounds through a thumping that seemed to be synchronized with his heartbeat.

“Not really,” said Adele, “but he’s no –”

The burst from Tovera’s little sub-machine gun cut off the next words. It sounded like an electrical fault. Dumouret had been curled in a ball. He twitched, and all his muscles relaxed.

The man with the pistol had fallen over Hogg’s body. Daniel felt his strength return. He stood up, hauling the dead shooter with him, and hurled him out of the way.

Hogg’s lips were moving slightly. There were bubbles of spit on them. He wasn’t bleeding, neither from mouth or chest, but something had blasted a hole in the left side of his tunic on a level with his heart.

Daniel reached into the outer right side-pocket of Hogg’s tunic and brought out the knife that Hogg kept there. He snicked the blade open, then plucked the collar of Hogg’s shirt away from the skin and ripped the garment down to the belt, baring his chest.

The skin was unbroken but there was a welt the size of Daniel’s spread hand at the point the hole had been blown in the tunic. It was fiery red and already swelling.

Hogg’s eyes focused on Daniel. “I hope somebody got the bastard who shot me,” he said in a rusty whisper.

“Is there a Medicomp in this building?” Daniel bellowed into the noise and confusion. Hogg winced with every breath, but he was breathing. “Adele, alert the Sissie! I want a stretcher team here soonest!”

Leaning close to Hogg again, Daniel said, “Adele handled that problem. I think Tovera took care of his partner, but anyway it’s taken care of.”

Daniel slit the left side of Hogg’s tunic and drew the pistol from the built-in holster concealed there. The slug had struck the receiver like a sledge hammer, almost severing the barrel from the butt and magazine.

“The bastard suckered me, played me for a right sap,” Hogg said, tensing against the pain but getting the words out without gasping. “If the Mistress fixed him, he won’t be doing it again, though.”

He laughed, punctuated by spasms of pain.

“There’s a Medicomp in the next room to the left,” Adele said, squatting to put her head on a level with Daniel’s.

“There’s a stretcher there too,” said Robin. “I thought, well, I’d as soon there was a facility close to my office.”

“I can bloody walk,” Hogg said, but he wasn’t trying to get up.

“You’ll do what your master bloody says, Hogg!” Daniel said. There might be internal bleeding; there were certainly cracked ribs.

 


Death’s Bright Day – Snippet 43

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Death’s Bright Day – Snippet 43 Cazelet began to laugh. He overbalanced and would have fallen had he not grabbed the pole of a floor lamp to brace himself. “Adele,” he said through gulps of air. “I knew that there … Continue reading

Death’s Bright Day – Snippet 43

Cazelet began to laugh. He overbalanced and would have fallen had he not grabbed the pole of a floor lamp to brace himself.

“Adele,” he said through gulps of air. “I knew that there was more going on than a contract to provide military assistance to a cluster in the back of beyond, but I didn’t expect…”

He began laughing again.

Adele allowed herself a slight smile. This wasn’t the reaction she had expected, but it was apparently a very good result.

“Yes,” she said. “It is an incongruous situation, one which you’re now an active part of. You may have believed that I brought you off the ship to entertain you. In fact, I want someone to provide this necessary support to our mission.”

“You think that I’m a cripple but that I can do this?” Cazelet said with sudden harshness.

“The mistress knows that you’re a cripple,” said Tovera. She had just placed fresh flowers on the table. “And if she didn’t think you could handle the job, she wouldn’t have told you to do it.”

His mood swings are probably because of the injury and the medications he’s on, Adele thought. At least he didn’t behave this way in the past.

“Yes,” she said aloud. “Tovera’s analysis is correct. The choice was between you and Cory, and your injury reduces your present capacity for normal shipboard duties.”

Cazelet’s expression went from anger to a hard blankness for a moment. Then he grinned and said, “Yes, and besides I’ll never be the astrogator that Tom Cory is. Show me my station.”

“Downstairs, I’m afraid,” Adele said, leading the way. “No doubt the exercise will be good for your leg.”

If Rene thought I was going to tell him that he isn’t physically impaired, he’s been damaged more seriously than I believed, Adele thought. She hoped it was a temporary aberration. She didn’t exactly depend on Cazelet, but he was an asset to her and to her RCN family.

Her smile was mostly in her mind. Besides, I like him as a person.

Adele set Cazelet to reading in, starting with the files which Major Grozhinski had provided. Cazelet was starting from scratch, so it would be days or weeks before he had the full background. He was quick, however; and, having grown up and worked in the Alliance he had an instinctive grasp of structures which would be only words to Cory.

The hardened communications room was really intended for solo use, but the console had a junior position on the back like the striker’s seat of warship consoles. Adele put Rene there and used the primary display to catch up on traffic which had arrived during her absence on Benjamin.

The 5th Bureau normally communicated with its Residencies using commercial vessels travelling to the desired location. Encrypted messages were implanted in ships’ astrogation consoles, generally without the crews or owners being informed. When a ship reached its destination, the message was transmitted to the Residency there.

Communications were therefore uncertain as to time and even arrival: a tramp freighter might change its planned course for any reason or none. From Adele’s experience, informing merchant captains that they were carrying government messages would not appreciably increase the likelihood that they would be delivered in a timely manner. Important information was sent in multiple copies.

Adele had sent her warning that the Peltry Resident had to be replaced to three separate worlds where the 5th Bureau presence was major enough to rate a courier missile. Even so there was no telling when the message would get to where it was supposed to go.

Hundreds of messages were in the console’s suspense file. Many of them involved Mignouri’s personal business, importing high-end office equipment from Pleasaunce and bypassing Alliance export tariffs.

Adele grimaced. That was grounds for dismissal, which in the 5th Bureau meant execution. She could not fathom what made Mignouri think that the profit justified the risk, but human beings made a great number of choices which struck Adele as the next thing to insanity.

Having scanned the message traffic, Adele checked on the surveillance of Dumouret. Realizing that this was something non-standard which Cazelet should keep on top of, she said, “Rene, echo my display and note the path. Dumouret is President Menandros’ butler and an agent of the Upholders. There are cameras in his office and living quarters in the palace, but the audio leaves something to be desired.”

Dumouret’s office was empty at present. Adele ran the recording back so that Cazelet could see the butler’s appearance. He appeared as he was walking out with two unfamiliar men, apparently taking them somewhere.

“His outfit must be a uniform,” Adele said. “He wore the same red-piped blue suit when I met him.”

“Let me see those men again,” Tovera said from over Adele’s shoulder. Her voice was sharp.

Adele locked on them and ran a facial recognition program. This was linked to the harbor database — a 5th Bureau system, not something she had put in place since she arrived.

“They’re listed as citizens of Danziger,” she said. “They arrived from there today on the freighter Dubrovnic.”

Danziger was outside the Tarbell Stars but due to good connections in the Matrix had become a major transshipment point. Freighters broke bulk here for distribution throughout the cluster.

“Run them through the Bureau database,” Tovera said. “I don’t recognize them, but I recognize the type.”

Adele did a separate search, wondering as she did whether she should have integrated the 5th Bureau files into the general database. No, because they include Mistress Sand’s information as well as what Grozhinski provided. I won’t put Cinnabar data on the Residency system because I may die before I can wipe it.

“The one calling himself Sadler is from Maintenance Section C on Pleasaunce,” Adele said. “I don’t find the one calling himself Scroggs.”

“They’re killers,” Tovera said. “I was Section C.”

“Tovera, let’s see if we can get to President Menandros before they do,” Adele said, swinging off the console’s seat and heading for the stairs. Tovera was right behind.

“Cazelet, alert both ships for lift-off!” Adele called over her shoulder. “All liberty is cancelled!”

She had no authority to give orders. Fortunately, Daniel cared as little about that in a crisis as Adele herself did.

At the back of her mind Adele wondered if Menandros’ death would really be such a bad thing for the Tarbell Stars. It would disrupt the government, however, and anyway the Upholders seemed to think that it would be bad for the government. If Adele had had time to consider the effects and side-effects she might come to a different conclusion, but for now she would go with blocking the plans of her enemies.

Adele got into the passenger compartment because the limousine had only a seat for the driver in front. As she started to swing the door closed, Cazelet called from the doorway, “Adele! On the external security system, they’re heading for the Ministry of War!”

Daniel is meeting Christopher Robin about…now.

“To the back entrance!” Adele said as Tovera switched on the motors. The limousine took off the left gatepost as Tovera backed into the street.

* * *

The waiting room of the Minister of War was scarcely bigger than Robin’s office. Daniel had passed through it when he left the Minister after their first meeting, but he couldn’t have described it from that experience.

Thirty-odd straight chairs stood in rows with a center aisle that wasn’t quite straight. Most of the chairs were occupied, but only a few of those waiting to see Robin wore uniforms. Most of the others had the look of salesmen of one sort or another. Wars were always good opportunities to dispose of unwanted merchandise.

The floor was littered and the walls hadn’t been washed in too long. It wasn’t an impressive sight to someone who had spent long hours in the Navy House waiting room in Xenos.

Daniel walked up to the front where a middle-aged male clerk sat at a console beside the door to the inner office. A soldier had pulled a chair nearby from the front row. He sat on it, his carbine leaning against the wall.

“I’m Captain Leary,” Daniel said pleasantly. “The Minister of War requested to see me at four pm today. I seem to be two minutes early.”

The clerk looked up. “Take a seat,” he said. “I’ll tell you if the Minister wants to see you.”

Still smiling, Daniel said, “May I ask who Minister Robin is with at present?”

“He’s busy and that’s all you need to know,” the clerk said. “I told you to take a seat!”

 


Death’s Bright Day – Snippet 42

Posted on Categories DrakeSnippet, Snippets

Death’s Bright Day – Snippet 42 CHAPTER 16 Newtown on Peltry “Six, the boarding bridge is fast to the dock,” Barnes announced from the main hold. He was bosun of the Princess Cecile for now because Woetjans was still aboard … Continue reading

Death’s Bright Day – Snippet 42

CHAPTER 16

Newtown on Peltry

“Six, the boarding bridge is fast to the dock,” Barnes announced from the main hold. He was bosun of the Princess Cecile for now because Woetjans was still aboard the Katchaturian.

“Release the liberty party, Barnes,” Daniel announced, using the general push rather than relying on the command channel. Faint cheers came up the companionway. The bosun would still give the formal order, but it pleased Daniel to be an open part of the process.

He got up from the command console and stretched. He, Adele, and Cazelet at the astrogation console were the only officers on the bridge. Sun and Chazanoff had gone on liberty. Strikers in the Battle Direction Center with Vesey were covering the gunnery and missile slots, but that was to obey regulations rather than for any practical purpose.

Turning again to face the console’s mike, Daniel said, “Ship, I am turning command over to Lieutenant Vesey. Six out.”

He had switched back to the Princess Cecile on Benjamin because he wanted to personally examine the outriggers in space. Cory was in titular command of the Katchaturian, but Daniel and Cory had agreed to let Captain Schnitker bring her back unless there was an unexpected problem.

The shakedown cruise had been a thorough success for both the destroyer and her personnel. Now that they were back on Peltry, Daniel would confirm most of the Nabis officers in their original ranks. He was still of two minds whether or not to leave some of his Sissies as warrant officers on the Katchaturian. In large measure that depended on the mission of the Nabis Squadron…when somebody told Daniel what that was.

“I’m off to the Katchaturian to accompany Captain Schnitker in his post-mission walk-through,” Daniel said, smiling at Cazelet. “Midshipman Cazelet, would you like to accompany me?”

Cazelet wasn’t back to 100% physically, but he never would be. The stiffness in his right leg might improve further; but equally, it might worsen. Some of the feeling in the leg was gone forever, and the flashes of phantom pain would always be with him also.

Daniel’s personal response to a problem was to face it head-on: if a muscle hurt, use it more. He wasn’t sure that was good physiology, but it was good for him mentally. Offering Cazelet a chance to push himself was the only thing Daniel could think of that he himself would be thankful for in the same situation.

“Ah, thank you, Six,” Cazelet said, turning at the console, “but –”

Daniel was prepared to hear, “– I’ll wait aboard until Lieutenant Vesey goes off duty.”

What Cazelet actually said was, “– I’m to accompany Officer Mundy on business in Newtown.”

“That’s right,” Adele said. She’d gotten to her feet. She had already changed into civilian clothes, Daniel saw; they were similar enough to the utilities Adele wore on duty that he hadn’t noticed the fact until now. “Rene has kindly offered to give me some help while he’s off duty.”

“Oh!” said Daniel. She’s giving the boy a change of scene. She’s his guardian, after all. The guardianship was unofficial, but neither the Mundys nor the Learys needed an official decree to know their duty. “Well, you’re in good hands, then, Cazelet. Ah — Officer Mundy, is there an update on Robin?”

“Master Walters says that the Minister of War will be able to fit you in at four pm today,” Adele said. “That’s three Standard Hours from now.”

Daniel grimaced. “Did he say that the minister ‘graciously agreed to see me’?” he asked.

“I took that as the implication,” Adele said. “Minister Robin appears to be afraid of your competence, and of course the success of your operation on Benjamin isn’t going to reassure him.”

“I don’t want his bloody job!” Daniel snapped.

“No, you don’t,” Adele said. “But you really can’t blame a former quartermaster from Kostroma for thinking you’d be tempted.”

Daniel grimaced. They were talking in front of Cazelet, which didn’t disturb either of them. Daniel suspected that Adele’s other employers might be distressed, but the less he thought about them, the happier he was.

“I’ll be sure to arrive on time for my appointment,” he said aloud. “If we leave the Tarbell Stars abruptly, it won’t be because the Minister of War has rescinded my appointment for good cause.”

He and Hogg started for the companionway. He was interested in Schnitker’s assessment of the Katchaturian’s thruster nozzles, particularly the four on the aftermost truck.

“And who knows?” Daniel said over his shoulder to Hogg. “Maybe the Minister will have had a change of heart in the time we’ve been gone.”

Hogg snorted in contempt. That was probably the correct response.

* * *

The large gray ground car waiting at the end of the dock for Adele and her companions wasn’t the vehicle the Mignouris owned. The man who’d brought it waited at the driver’s door. He was the same one who had driven Adele and Tovera from the Residency to the Princess Cecile for the mission to Benjamin.

“It’s all right,” Tovera said. “Hogg told me his friend couldn’t return the blue one just yet but this one was nicer.”

“It’s a limousine!” said Cazelet. He was walking stiffly and the smile on his face looked forced, though Adele realized that she wasn’t an expert on smiles. In any case, Cazelet was maintaining a normal pace and demeanor, which was all that anyone had the right to expect. Adele’s own mental state probably wouldn’t pass a psych evaluation, but so long as she did her job, that was her business alone.

“If you’re satisfied that it’s safe, Tovera,” Adele said. “Worst case, I’m sure Hogg will avenge us.”

Tovera giggled. “I trust Hogg’s judgment,” she said.

The driver tipped his billed cap and said, “She’s got a full charge. I’ll send word to Hogg when he can have the little ‘un back. Or if you like, you can keep this ‘un. The previous owner doesn’t need it any more.”

His short laugh sounded like a deeper version of Tovera’s.

“Thank you,” Adele said. “You’ll be informed.”

She didn’t know what the Mignouris would want — or the widow would want, very possibly. This car was worth at least twice what theirs would sell for, but there might be other reasons not to accept the trade.

Cazelet handed Adele into the passenger compartment. She took one of the three front-facing seats; he sat kitty-corner facing her with his right leg stretched out straight. Tovera drove away sedately, though she overcorrected even more noticeably than she had with the Mignouris’ smaller vehicle.

The wood inlays of the car’s interior were real. “I’m guessing that this would cost four or five times as much as the car it replaces,” she said aloud. “I suspect the Mignouris will find some way to accept what they’re being offered, even if they believe it’s a proceed of crime.”

Tovera pulled into the parking space of the Residency. She didn’t hit either of the posts, but she did tap the wall of the house with her front bumper because she was concentrating on the sides behind her.

“This is a private house?” Cazelet said as they got out.

“This is the 5th Bureau Residency in Newtown,” Adele said as she led the way to the front door. “It’s administered through the Bureau’s Third Diocese, whose director is General Storn. I suspect you’ve become familiar with that name, though I’ve never discussed him with you.”

Tovera closed the door behind them. She immediately disappeared toward the garden with the vase of — now very dead — cut flowers.

“I…” Cazelet said. “Cory and I in our researches, ah, came across the name, yes. But we were just getting general background on the work we might be called on to do in the course of our duties.”

Storn had been instrumental in the satisfactory outcome of Adele’s business on Tattersall. Adele had been certain that she had trained Cory and Cazelet well enough that they would have followed up some of the loose ends of that operation and found where they led.

“The Princess Cecile and her personnel are aiding the government of the Tarbell Stars at Storn’s behest,” Adele said. “The Peltry Resident was to help me in this task — he reports to Storn.”

She shrugged. It bothered her to simplify the situation so coarsely, but her statement was accurate and sufficient for the purpose. “Unfortunately,” she said, “the Resident has had a stroke, so until he can be replaced I’ve taken it on myself to keep the Residency running.”

 


Death’s Bright Day – Snippet 42

Posted on Categories DrakeSnippet, Snippets

Death’s Bright Day – Snippet 42 CHAPTER 16 Newtown on Peltry “Six, the boarding bridge is fast to the dock,” Barnes announced from the main hold. He was bosun of the Princess Cecile for now because Woetjans was still aboard … Continue reading

Death’s Bright Day – Snippet 42

CHAPTER 16

Newtown on Peltry

“Six, the boarding bridge is fast to the dock,” Barnes announced from the main hold. He was bosun of the Princess Cecile for now because Woetjans was still aboard the Katchaturian.

“Release the liberty party, Barnes,” Daniel announced, using the general push rather than relying on the command channel. Faint cheers came up the companionway. The bosun would still give the formal order, but it pleased Daniel to be an open part of the process.

He got up from the command console and stretched. He, Adele, and Cazelet at the astrogation console were the only officers on the bridge. Sun and Chazanoff had gone on liberty. Strikers in the Battle Direction Center with Vesey were covering the gunnery and missile slots, but that was to obey regulations rather than for any practical purpose.

Turning again to face the console’s mike, Daniel said, “Ship, I am turning command over to Lieutenant Vesey. Six out.”

He had switched back to the Princess Cecile on Benjamin because he wanted to personally examine the outriggers in space. Cory was in titular command of the Katchaturian, but Daniel and Cory had agreed to let Captain Schnitker bring her back unless there was an unexpected problem.

The shakedown cruise had been a thorough success for both the destroyer and her personnel. Now that they were back on Peltry, Daniel would confirm most of the Nabis officers in their original ranks. He was still of two minds whether or not to leave some of his Sissies as warrant officers on the Katchaturian. In large measure that depended on the mission of the Nabis Squadron…when somebody told Daniel what that was.

“I’m off to the Katchaturian to accompany Captain Schnitker in his post-mission walk-through,” Daniel said, smiling at Cazelet. “Midshipman Cazelet, would you like to accompany me?”

Cazelet wasn’t back to 100% physically, but he never would be. The stiffness in his right leg might improve further; but equally, it might worsen. Some of the feeling in the leg was gone forever, and the flashes of phantom pain would always be with him also.

Daniel’s personal response to a problem was to face it head-on: if a muscle hurt, use it more. He wasn’t sure that was good physiology, but it was good for him mentally. Offering Cazelet a chance to push himself was the only thing Daniel could think of that he himself would be thankful for in the same situation.

“Ah, thank you, Six,” Cazelet said, turning at the console, “but –”

Daniel was prepared to hear, “– I’ll wait aboard until Lieutenant Vesey goes off duty.”

What Cazelet actually said was, “– I’m to accompany Officer Mundy on business in Newtown.”

“That’s right,” Adele said. She’d gotten to her feet. She had already changed into civilian clothes, Daniel saw; they were similar enough to the utilities Adele wore on duty that he hadn’t noticed the fact until now. “Rene has kindly offered to give me some help while he’s off duty.”

“Oh!” said Daniel. She’s giving the boy a change of scene. She’s his guardian, after all. The guardianship was unofficial, but neither the Mundys nor the Learys needed an official decree to know their duty. “Well, you’re in good hands, then, Cazelet. Ah — Officer Mundy, is there an update on Robin?”

“Master Walters says that the Minister of War will be able to fit you in at four pm today,” Adele said. “That’s three Standard Hours from now.”

Daniel grimaced. “Did he say that the minister ‘graciously agreed to see me’?” he asked.

“I took that as the implication,” Adele said. “Minister Robin appears to be afraid of your competence, and of course the success of your operation on Benjamin isn’t going to reassure him.”

“I don’t want his bloody job!” Daniel snapped.

“No, you don’t,” Adele said. “But you really can’t blame a former quartermaster from Kostroma for thinking you’d be tempted.”

Daniel grimaced. They were talking in front of Cazelet, which didn’t disturb either of them. Daniel suspected that Adele’s other employers might be distressed, but the less he thought about them, the happier he was.

“I’ll be sure to arrive on time for my appointment,” he said aloud. “If we leave the Tarbell Stars abruptly, it won’t be because the Minister of War has rescinded my appointment for good cause.”

He and Hogg started for the companionway. He was interested in Schnitker’s assessment of the Katchaturian’s thruster nozzles, particularly the four on the aftermost truck.

“And who knows?” Daniel said over his shoulder to Hogg. “Maybe the Minister will have had a change of heart in the time we’ve been gone.”

Hogg snorted in contempt. That was probably the correct response.

* * *

The large gray ground car waiting at the end of the dock for Adele and her companions wasn’t the vehicle the Mignouris owned. The man who’d brought it waited at the driver’s door. He was the same one who had driven Adele and Tovera from the Residency to the Princess Cecile for the mission to Benjamin.

“It’s all right,” Tovera said. “Hogg told me his friend couldn’t return the blue one just yet but this one was nicer.”

“It’s a limousine!” said Cazelet. He was walking stiffly and the smile on his face looked forced, though Adele realized that she wasn’t an expert on smiles. In any case, Cazelet was maintaining a normal pace and demeanor, which was all that anyone had the right to expect. Adele’s own mental state probably wouldn’t pass a psych evaluation, but so long as she did her job, that was her business alone.

“If you’re satisfied that it’s safe, Tovera,” Adele said. “Worst case, I’m sure Hogg will avenge us.”

Tovera giggled. “I trust Hogg’s judgment,” she said.

The driver tipped his billed cap and said, “She’s got a full charge. I’ll send word to Hogg when he can have the little ‘un back. Or if you like, you can keep this ‘un. The previous owner doesn’t need it any more.”

His short laugh sounded like a deeper version of Tovera’s.

“Thank you,” Adele said. “You’ll be informed.”

She didn’t know what the Mignouris would want — or the widow would want, very possibly. This car was worth at least twice what theirs would sell for, but there might be other reasons not to accept the trade.

Cazelet handed Adele into the passenger compartment. She took one of the three front-facing seats; he sat kitty-corner facing her with his right leg stretched out straight. Tovera drove away sedately, though she overcorrected even more noticeably than she had with the Mignouris’ smaller vehicle.

The wood inlays of the car’s interior were real. “I’m guessing that this would cost four or five times as much as the car it replaces,” she said aloud. “I suspect the Mignouris will find some way to accept what they’re being offered, even if they believe it’s a proceed of crime.”

Tovera pulled into the parking space of the Residency. She didn’t hit either of the posts, but she did tap the wall of the house with her front bumper because she was concentrating on the sides behind her.

“This is a private house?” Cazelet said as they got out.

“This is the 5th Bureau Residency in Newtown,” Adele said as she led the way to the front door. “It’s administered through the Bureau’s Third Diocese, whose director is General Storn. I suspect you’ve become familiar with that name, though I’ve never discussed him with you.”

Tovera closed the door behind them. She immediately disappeared toward the garden with the vase of — now very dead — cut flowers.

“I…” Cazelet said. “Cory and I in our researches, ah, came across the name, yes. But we were just getting general background on the work we might be called on to do in the course of our duties.”

Storn had been instrumental in the satisfactory outcome of Adele’s business on Tattersall. Adele had been certain that she had trained Cory and Cazelet well enough that they would have followed up some of the loose ends of that operation and found where they led.

“The Princess Cecile and her personnel are aiding the government of the Tarbell Stars at Storn’s behest,” Adele said. “The Peltry Resident was to help me in this task — he reports to Storn.”

She shrugged. It bothered her to simplify the situation so coarsely, but her statement was accurate and sufficient for the purpose. “Unfortunately,” she said, “the Resident has had a stroke, so until he can be replaced I’ve taken it on myself to keep the Residency running.”

 


Death’s Bright Day – Snippet 42

Posted on Categories DrakeSnippet, Snippets

Death’s Bright Day – Snippet 42 CHAPTER 16 Newtown on Peltry “Six, the boarding bridge is fast to the dock,” Barnes announced from the main hold. He was bosun of the Princess Cecile for now because Woetjans was still aboard … Continue reading

Death’s Bright Day – Snippet 42

CHAPTER 16

Newtown on Peltry

“Six, the boarding bridge is fast to the dock,” Barnes announced from the main hold. He was bosun of the Princess Cecile for now because Woetjans was still aboard the Katchaturian.

“Release the liberty party, Barnes,” Daniel announced, using the general push rather than relying on the command channel. Faint cheers came up the companionway. The bosun would still give the formal order, but it pleased Daniel to be an open part of the process.

He got up from the command console and stretched. He, Adele, and Cazelet at the astrogation console were the only officers on the bridge. Sun and Chazanoff had gone on liberty. Strikers in the Battle Direction Center with Vesey were covering the gunnery and missile slots, but that was to obey regulations rather than for any practical purpose.

Turning again to face the console’s mike, Daniel said, “Ship, I am turning command over to Lieutenant Vesey. Six out.”

He had switched back to the Princess Cecile on Benjamin because he wanted to personally examine the outriggers in space. Cory was in titular command of the Katchaturian, but Daniel and Cory had agreed to let Captain Schnitker bring her back unless there was an unexpected problem.

The shakedown cruise had been a thorough success for both the destroyer and her personnel. Now that they were back on Peltry, Daniel would confirm most of the Nabis officers in their original ranks. He was still of two minds whether or not to leave some of his Sissies as warrant officers on the Katchaturian. In large measure that depended on the mission of the Nabis Squadron…when somebody told Daniel what that was.

“I’m off to the Katchaturian to accompany Captain Schnitker in his post-mission walk-through,” Daniel said, smiling at Cazelet. “Midshipman Cazelet, would you like to accompany me?”

Cazelet wasn’t back to 100% physically, but he never would be. The stiffness in his right leg might improve further; but equally, it might worsen. Some of the feeling in the leg was gone forever, and the flashes of phantom pain would always be with him also.

Daniel’s personal response to a problem was to face it head-on: if a muscle hurt, use it more. He wasn’t sure that was good physiology, but it was good for him mentally. Offering Cazelet a chance to push himself was the only thing Daniel could think of that he himself would be thankful for in the same situation.

“Ah, thank you, Six,” Cazelet said, turning at the console, “but –”

Daniel was prepared to hear, “– I’ll wait aboard until Lieutenant Vesey goes off duty.”

What Cazelet actually said was, “– I’m to accompany Officer Mundy on business in Newtown.”

“That’s right,” Adele said. She’d gotten to her feet. She had already changed into civilian clothes, Daniel saw; they were similar enough to the utilities Adele wore on duty that he hadn’t noticed the fact until now. “Rene has kindly offered to give me some help while he’s off duty.”

“Oh!” said Daniel. She’s giving the boy a change of scene. She’s his guardian, after all. The guardianship was unofficial, but neither the Mundys nor the Learys needed an official decree to know their duty. “Well, you’re in good hands, then, Cazelet. Ah — Officer Mundy, is there an update on Robin?”

“Master Walters says that the Minister of War will be able to fit you in at four pm today,” Adele said. “That’s three Standard Hours from now.”

Daniel grimaced. “Did he say that the minister ‘graciously agreed to see me’?” he asked.

“I took that as the implication,” Adele said. “Minister Robin appears to be afraid of your competence, and of course the success of your operation on Benjamin isn’t going to reassure him.”

“I don’t want his bloody job!” Daniel snapped.

“No, you don’t,” Adele said. “But you really can’t blame a former quartermaster from Kostroma for thinking you’d be tempted.”

Daniel grimaced. They were talking in front of Cazelet, which didn’t disturb either of them. Daniel suspected that Adele’s other employers might be distressed, but the less he thought about them, the happier he was.

“I’ll be sure to arrive on time for my appointment,” he said aloud. “If we leave the Tarbell Stars abruptly, it won’t be because the Minister of War has rescinded my appointment for good cause.”

He and Hogg started for the companionway. He was interested in Schnitker’s assessment of the Katchaturian’s thruster nozzles, particularly the four on the aftermost truck.

“And who knows?” Daniel said over his shoulder to Hogg. “Maybe the Minister will have had a change of heart in the time we’ve been gone.”

Hogg snorted in contempt. That was probably the correct response.

* * *

The large gray ground car waiting at the end of the dock for Adele and her companions wasn’t the vehicle the Mignouris owned. The man who’d brought it waited at the driver’s door. He was the same one who had driven Adele and Tovera from the Residency to the Princess Cecile for the mission to Benjamin.

“It’s all right,” Tovera said. “Hogg told me his friend couldn’t return the blue one just yet but this one was nicer.”

“It’s a limousine!” said Cazelet. He was walking stiffly and the smile on his face looked forced, though Adele realized that she wasn’t an expert on smiles. In any case, Cazelet was maintaining a normal pace and demeanor, which was all that anyone had the right to expect. Adele’s own mental state probably wouldn’t pass a psych evaluation, but so long as she did her job, that was her business alone.

“If you’re satisfied that it’s safe, Tovera,” Adele said. “Worst case, I’m sure Hogg will avenge us.”

Tovera giggled. “I trust Hogg’s judgment,” she said.

The driver tipped his billed cap and said, “She’s got a full charge. I’ll send word to Hogg when he can have the little ‘un back. Or if you like, you can keep this ‘un. The previous owner doesn’t need it any more.”

His short laugh sounded like a deeper version of Tovera’s.

“Thank you,” Adele said. “You’ll be informed.”

She didn’t know what the Mignouris would want — or the widow would want, very possibly. This car was worth at least twice what theirs would sell for, but there might be other reasons not to accept the trade.

Cazelet handed Adele into the passenger compartment. She took one of the three front-facing seats; he sat kitty-corner facing her with his right leg stretched out straight. Tovera drove away sedately, though she overcorrected even more noticeably than she had with the Mignouris’ smaller vehicle.

The wood inlays of the car’s interior were real. “I’m guessing that this would cost four or five times as much as the car it replaces,” she said aloud. “I suspect the Mignouris will find some way to accept what they’re being offered, even if they believe it’s a proceed of crime.”

Tovera pulled into the parking space of the Residency. She didn’t hit either of the posts, but she did tap the wall of the house with her front bumper because she was concentrating on the sides behind her.

“This is a private house?” Cazelet said as they got out.

“This is the 5th Bureau Residency in Newtown,” Adele said as she led the way to the front door. “It’s administered through the Bureau’s Third Diocese, whose director is General Storn. I suspect you’ve become familiar with that name, though I’ve never discussed him with you.”

Tovera closed the door behind them. She immediately disappeared toward the garden with the vase of — now very dead — cut flowers.

“I…” Cazelet said. “Cory and I in our researches, ah, came across the name, yes. But we were just getting general background on the work we might be called on to do in the course of our duties.”

Storn had been instrumental in the satisfactory outcome of Adele’s business on Tattersall. Adele had been certain that she had trained Cory and Cazelet well enough that they would have followed up some of the loose ends of that operation and found where they led.

“The Princess Cecile and her personnel are aiding the government of the Tarbell Stars at Storn’s behest,” Adele said. “The Peltry Resident was to help me in this task — he reports to Storn.”

She shrugged. It bothered her to simplify the situation so coarsely, but her statement was accurate and sufficient for the purpose. “Unfortunately,” she said, “the Resident has had a stroke, so until he can be replaced I’ve taken it on myself to keep the Residency running.”

 


Death’s Bright Day – Snippet 41

Posted on Categories DrakeSnippet, Snippets

Death’s Bright Day – Snippet 41 This time a woman carrying an infant did step forward, calling something unintelligible. A Sissie raised his impeller to butt-stroke her, but Wright — still a common spacer, but that would change as soon … Continue reading

Death’s Bright Day – Snippet 41

This time a woman carrying an infant did step forward, calling something unintelligible. A Sissie raised his impeller to butt-stroke her, but Wright — still a common spacer, but that would change as soon as the Katchaturian reached Peltry — caught the gun by the receiver and held it long enough for the woman to come to her senses and scramble back.

“We ought to hang them all!” snarled Chidsey. “They killed my son! Shot him down!”

“I’m sorry,” said Daniel truthfully, “but my family has presided over one massacre in my lifetime — ” the Proscriptions following the Three Circles Conspiracy ” — and I don’t choose to add a second.”

Chidsey muttered curses as he watched the villagers marched off for the meal Daniel had promised them. The merchant captain had no more power at present than those villagers did, if the truth were told, but so long as he showed that he knew his place Daniel had no reason to jerk him to heel.

Chidsey’s son had been the mate of the Mezentian Gate. He had either mouthed off or tried to take a weapon from the pirate boarding party and had been shot. It might have been possible to learn who the shooter had been, but it would have taken time. The Nabis Contingent wasn’t going to spend any longer on Benjamin that it took to re-step the Sissie’s antenna, and Daniel would have been willing to let that wait for Peltry if the job hadn’t been going so well.

Daniel had never asked his father if he had any regrets over the Proscriptions. By the time Daniel was old enough to appreciate what it meant to send thousands of people to their deaths without trial, he was no longer on speaking terms with his father.

He probably had the answer already. So far as Daniel knew, Corder Leary wasn’t on record as having expressed regret about anything.

The villagers were marching off glumly to the swale where they would be fed. Spacers watched them, some of them obviously eager to use their weapons. The spacers didn’t have any particular malice, but this raid was the most excitement many of them had ever imagined. Daniel hoped that nobody would get trigger-happy, but this was war. Bad things happen in wars.

Two men remained between the warships under the guard of Evans and Dasi, the latter with bandaged hands. The trigger guard of Dasi’s sub-machine gun was latched down as it would have been for use while wearing a rigging suit.

“Let’s go down and take care of the rest of our business,” Daniel said to his companions. He started down the ramp, noticing as he did so that Woetjans had left the corvette’s spine and was coming over to join them.

The bosun called, “The Sissie’ll be ready to lift by nightfall, Six. Sooner if we jury-rig it without a base section, but we can get the kink outa the base if we have a little time with it.”

“I want to get off Benjamin,” Daniel said after a moment’s consideration, “but we’ll be here for that long anyway, refilling with reaction mass. The well here doesn’t have as much flow as I’d like, but unless it dries up completely I want to top off both ships.”

The two prisoners were watching Daniel expectantly as he talked with his bosun, though the former Nabis spacer’s face showed a degree of nervousness as well. The city-dressed civilian had regained his composure, though handfuls of gravel hadn’t cleaned all the vomit from his tunic. He offered Daniel a bright smile and said, “Captain Leary, I –”

“In a moment,” Daniel said, his eyes on the spacer.

“But –” said the civilian. Evans grabbed the fellow by the shoulder to anchor him with his left fist and cocked his right.

“Stop!” Daniel said, grabbing the big tech’s right wrist. “I need to talk to him, Evans. Just not now.”

“Sure, Six,” Evans said equably. He smiled and let go of the civilian, who had lost the ruddiness of his cheeks again.

“You’re Easton,” Daniel said to the spacer, “and you’re an engine wiper. Right?”

“Yeah, port watch on the Katie,” Easton said, bobbing his head in agreement. “Look, I’m sorry about it all but I was drunk, you know?”

“What I know at this moment,” Daniel said, “is that you’re a rapist. Right?”

“If you say so,” Easton muttered, staring at the ground.

“Not a lot a doubt about it,” Woetjans said. “I came over because she was screaming like a stuck pig and dragged him off. She can’t a’ been but twelve.”

“Look, I’d had a couple tots of working fluid,” Easton said, snarling now but his eyes still on the ground. “I’m not a bloody soldier, and I didn’t like the notion of going out and getting shot! Anyway, I relaxed some when things quieted down, all right?”

“No, not all right,” Daniel said calmly. “I think the best thing to do with you is leave you on the ground here where you won’t be tempted by engine-room alcohol.”

“Hey, you can’t do that!” Easton said, looking up in horror. “What am I going to do here on this pisspot world?”

“I’ll take him,” Captain Chidsey said. “I can use another tech. My boy handled most of the Power Room, and we’re short-handed besides.”

“No,” said Daniel without looking at the merchant captain. “If you want to come back for him later, that’s your business; but not now.”

“Look, I’m sorry,” Easton bleated, dropping to his knees. From his tone, that was true, as sure as sunrise. “You can’t leave me here!”

“If you don’t chase after those villagers right away…” Daniel said. “Evans is going to hit you. And if he does that, you won’t be able to get up before the line is well out of sight. I’m not leaving another compass with you.”

Easton blubbered for a moment, but when Evans raised his fist slowly — it wasn’t a threat; he was choosing the right target — the Nabie turned and stumbled off in the direction of the villagers. Daniel watched him for a moment.

“What do you suppose they’ll do with him?” Vesey said quietly.

Daniel shrugged. “They might marry him to the girl,” he said. “Or they might eat him because food’s short. I don’t really care, except that he’s off my ship.”

He turned to the remaining prisoner, who had lost his previous bonhomie. “Now, what’s your name, fellow?” he said.

“I’m an Alliance citizen,” the civilian said, “Charlie Platt, and I’m just here by accident. I’m sure –”

“He’s the shipbroker,” said Chidsey. “He was bargaining for my Gate. He talked to the village chiefs on the bridge for privacy, that’s how I know for sure. He was cheating them too.”

“Pretty much what I thought, Captain,” Daniel said, smiling faintly.

“Look, there’s money in this for you!” Platt said. “Lots of money, more money than you can dream. All you have –”

“Shut up, Platt,” Daniel said.

“– is take a message to my –”

“Hit him, Evans,” Daniel said.

Evans smashed Platt instantly in the jaw; apparently he regretted not swinging in time to drop Easton. Platt flew backward. From the amount of blood, his tongue must have been between his teeth when the punch closed his mouth.

“There are things I won’t do for money,” Daniel said, his voice suddenly hoarse. “Quite a lot of things, actually.”

He took a deep breath, then turned to Chidsey and said, “Captain, you said you were shorthanded. Would you care to take aboard a landsman?”

“How do you know I won’t put him out the lock as soon as we make orbit?” Chidsey said, his tone challenging.

“I don’t know, Captain,” Daniel said, “and I don’t care. Though I’ll point out that Master Platt probably could make you very wealthy.”

“Being rich wouldn’t bring my boy back, would it?” Chidsey said.

Daniel smiled, for the first time warming to the merchant captain. “No sir,” he said, “I don’t believe it would.”

He hooked a thumb in the direction of the moaning Platt. “I’ll send your crew down to you,” Daniel said. “You can get him to the Gate, I presume. I’ve checked, and you’ve got plenty of reaction mass for the run back to Peltry.”

“Then I guess we’ll take ourselfs off,” Chidsey said. “I’d guess we’d lift to orbit in an hour at the outside.”

“Then I’ll leave you to it,” Daniel said. He nodded to his companions and walked toward the ramp of the Katchaturian. He was whistling, “The Fair Maid of Xenos Town.”

 


Death’s Bright Day – Snippet 40 Under the circumstances, the villager might as easily have missed the ship itself, Adele thought. And if he’d had time to realize how badly the attackers outnumbered them, he probably wouldn’t have shot at all. But probabilities didn’t change reality; and eventually everyone dies. Which Adele often found a blessing to remember. Continue reading "Death’s Bright Day – Snippet 40"