Death’s Bright Day – Snippet 42


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.”