1635: THE CANNON LAW – snippet 85:



            Sharon looked at Ruy. "Does that sound likely to you?" she asked, and then realized how it must sound to Isaac. "Sorry, Isaac, " she said, "but Signor Sanchez is a soldier and can probably make a better guess than either of us whether there might be that many soldiers who can come from Naples."


            Ruy shrugged. "Maybe. I think they have more troubles of their own in Naples than to send the three or four tercios it would take to do anything worthwhile in Rome. In all likelihood your first thought was the right one."


            "And if Borja really has called for an army?" Sharon asked, and she could see Isaac's face grow especially concerned at that.


            Ruy shook his head. "Even Borja is not that stupid, I think. And if he is, unless the various rebellions that are threatening in Naples have suddenly given up the ghost, the Viceroy at Naples is not so stupid that he might rob himself of his defensive strength voluntarily. I have not met Monterey myself, but I recall Alfonso thought him competent. A perfect bastard, but competent."


            "Bastard? This is not the half of it," Isaac put in, and Sharon was pleased to see that the guy was unwinding a little. "I hear stories. Even for a Viceroy of Naples the man is a bloodsucker."


            "Such was Alfonso's opinion, too." Sharon noted that Ruy was carefully not saying to Isaac who Alfonso actually was. That was either part of his efforts to keep Isaac at ease or he was carefully not drawing attention to the fact that his last employer had been a Spanish cardinal.


            "So he'll want all those troops down in Naples to guard his money, then?" Sharon ventured.


            "In all likelihood. Unless there is something we are missing," Ruy said.


            Sharon thought about that. What would they lose if they assumed that there was more to it than met the eye? If Borja was sending for troops to intervene in Rome, it would mean evacuating the embassy. And putting off her wedding, which was now less than a fortnight away. Screw that, she thought. On the other hand, having the embassy ready for an evacuation, quietly done, would do no harm. "Isaac," she said, "thank you for the information. If Borja does bring troops in force to Rome, will you and your family be safe? We can help if you need to evacuate—"


            Isaac shook his head. "No, Your Excellency. The ghetto will survive, as it has always done. There will be looting, but little, as we are poor. What we have can and will be hidden."


            "In the meantime, Signor Isaac," Ruy said, "I have some old tack you can take away for repair to cover your visit here, and perhaps the Marines need some small jobs done as well. I think perhaps it would be helpful if you also reported here from time to time, if it can be done without exposing you?"


            Isaac agreed to that on his way out. A few minutes later, after seeing the man away, Ruy returned.


            "You have a contingency plan, Your Excellency?" he asked, "Or do you wish one?  On the one hand, we have the source who told us that Borja's plans were solely to destabilize the Holy See, and so far we have seen nothing that disagrees with this.  Borja was almost certainly doing no more than report progress.  On the other hand …" he left the question hanging.


            "I think we ought to have one. Father Maratta and Signora Fontana are here this afternoon to go over the details for the wedding, so neither of us can make a start on it today. I think we should dump this one on Tom and Captain Taggart, since they're the nearest USE officers."


            "Ah, less work for us? I like this plan already." Ruy grinned.





            "We're going where?" Ezquerra's disbelief was written in every wrinkle of his gap-toothed face.


            "Rome, sergeant." Don Vincente could hardly believe it himself. "Apparently we are to take ship some time in the next few days, just as soon as the esteemed quartermasters remove the assorted sticks from up their asses, and sail to Rome. And, unless I miss my guess, we are to sack it."


            "Sack Rome?" Ezquerra had clearly forgotten his every trick of concealing disrespect from officers. Not that Don Vincente could blame him. As orders went, these were more deranged than most.


            "Well, I say sack," Don Vincente went on, looking again at the written order that was, in an example of undue haste on the part of the army, dated only the day before yesterday and had therefore reached company level with blistering speed. “But what it actually says is that following complete breakdown of civic order in Rome we are to advance on the city via Ostia and subjugate rebellion."


            Ezquerra's face went blank at that, as well it might. As pretexts went, it was thinner than most. Especially since the actual disturbances in Rome had been news in Naples last week, with the renewed peace in that city the news this week. Order had, if the news was right, restored itself.


            And even the plodding pace of army bureaucracy could reverse itself in that time. Especially if the reverse consisted of suddenly doing nothing, a maneuver that the army excelled in.


            "When must we be ready by, Don Vincente?" Ezquerra asked at length.




            That, as it happened, was not what concerned him about this business. Ezquerra and Rojas would have the company ready, of that there was no doubt. Rojas had learned to stay the hell out of Ezquerra's way and let him work as well as Don Vincente had.


            Ezquerra simply nodded. "We are expecting loot, then?"


            "Possibly," Don Vincente said, spreading his hands and shrugging. "The rumor is that Ostia is already sold to us, and should fall with little resistance. Rome has no defenses, and will likely not resist. So a general sack? I doubt it." He decided not to mention that he had long since resigned himself to missing opportunities for plunder by sheer bad luck. It would be just his luck to get saddled with some fool mission that kept him away from the loot.