IN THE STORMY RED SKY â€“ snippet 60:
The Brethren positioned themselves on three sides of the map table; Daniel by default took the place, across from the Colonel. Stockheim ruffled the map sheets, his face as harsh as that of the legendary boy whose belly was chewed open by the fox he’d stolen.
“Captain Leary,” he said, “granting the truth of documents you’ve provided–and I do grant that, they explain matters that made no sense before–there’s still the question of our honor. We have our orders.”
Hogg and Woetjans stood in the empty trailer. They talked in low voices, but their eyes never left the group around the map table.
Daniel grimaced. “Colonel Stockheim,” he said, “you’ve seen the secret attachment to the orders posting your regiment to Fonthill. If you like, I can probably get you a copy of the encryption key so that you can decrypt the attachment on your own console here. That is, you can if you had the common sense to make a copy before you handed the chip over to Administrator Disch.”
He hoped that Adele would provide some sort of emasculated key if necessary, but he hoped even more that it wouldn’t be necessary. Daniel had met officers who seemed to have nothing but the Military Regulations between their ears, but in the present case even the regulations were on the side of common sense.
“Colonel,” he said urgently, “your orders were illegal. Senator Forbes represents the Republic to which your honor is pledged. Her authority has been accepted by Headman Hieronymos, so I can’t imagine what problem you can have with it.”
“Women are the lesser vessels,” the young aide said. He’d been looking down at the acetate-printed maps, but now he glared straight at Daniel. “We of the Brotherhood do not accept orders from women.”
“Really, Lieutenant?” Daniel said. He didn’t have to pretend that he found the situation funny, though he knew there were other possible reactions to this stiff-necked idiot’s words. “But you don’t have any problem taking orders from Prince Willie Beckford, apparently–and I assure you, he’s not a man in any sense that I recognize.”
The boy blushed, indicating that even the Brotherhood of Amorgos had heard stories about Prince Willie’s revels.
“Regardless,” Daniel continued breezily, “the question doesn’t arise. A senator doesn’t have any military rank, so you’ll be taking orders from the senior RCN officer in the region. Me.”
He beamed at the three Brethren. “I hope you don’t question my manhood, Lieutenant?” he added mildly to the young aide.
The boy blushed even darker. “No sir,” he whispered toward the maps. “I didn’t mean that at all, sir. Sir, I’m very sorry.”
“I checked your record after we met on Paton, Leary,” the Colonel said. His smile wasn’t wide, but it seemed sincere. As with Adele, one got the impression that his face might crack if his lips spread too broadly. “I’m not in doubt about your manhood.”
He swallowed; his wrinkled as though what had been in his mouth was sour. “While I realize that my business as a soldier is to take orders, not to question them, has any provision been made to protect the laborers after the regiment is withdrawn?”
“The ferals are beasts,” the older aide said. He didn’t raise his voice, but harsh emotion trembled in his tone. “I know how Beckford has treated the laborers on Fonthill, but the fact remains that the ones who’ve run–the ones who survive in the wild–aren’t human any more.”
“And you mustn’t think that they’ll spare the laborers who’re still in the camps,” said the younger man earnestly. “They hate the ones who haven’t run even worse than they do the administrators, or they seem to. They eat laborers they capture, as if they were cattle!”
“We’ll be taking the laborers away with us,” Daniel said. If Adele had been here, she would’ve commandeered one of the consoles to create a visual display; perhaps she’d have shown the Hydriote fleet which would be removing the former slaves. Still, his verbal description seemed to be holding the Brethren’s attention. “And that includes your ferals, if my colleague Officer Mundy can convince them to go with us.”
“Are you joking, Leary?” Colonel Stockheim said, his voice getting colder and harsher with each syllable. “What could you possibly offer the ferals? They’re not human any more, we’ve told you!”
“I’m offering them a cash payment to be determined later, plus citizenship on Bolton,” Daniel said. “Or rather, Officer Mundy is, in the name of Senator Forbes. The same offer that’s being made to all the other laborers on Fonthill. They can stay here, of course, but I can’t imagine why they would want to.”
“Bolton?” said the young aide, frowning as he tried to get a mental grip on the statement. “Sir, the only Bolton I know is an Alliance world in the Montserrat Stars.”
“Right,” said Daniel, “at the moment. But they’re about to become Friends of Cinnabar. That’s why we need the labor force from here. The ordinary workers will patrol St James Harbor, where about half the planet’s population lives. That will be peacekeeping so long as there’s enough of a garrison from the start to keep the lid on. Out in the countryside, though, where there isn’t that kind of control–well, that’s work for the ferals. They’ll find the conditions better than they are in the jungle here, and from what you tell me–”
He met the eyes of each of the Brethren in turn. Their faces were gray. Daniel was smiling, but someone who knew him would have noticed that his cheeks were set in hard lines.
“–they’ll find anti-partisan work more congenial than you or I would.”
Nobody spoke for a moment.
“I told you I’d read your file, Leary,” Stockheim said at last. His face and voice were without expression; his fingers riffled the maps again. “I’m just a soldier, but I’ve seen things; I can read between the lines of a report.”
“Yes sir?” said Daniel, meeting the eyes of the older man.
“I read about what you’d done in the Bagarian Cluster,” Stockheim said, “and I thought, ‘He’s as hard as his father, and his father was as hard as the Speaker’s Rock.'”
Daniel heard a whisper of sound, though it was so faint that the landsmen probably didn’t notice it. A starship was tearing through the upper levels of the atmosphere, coming in for a landing.
“Colonel,” he said carefully, “we’re at war. And we’ve both taken oaths to defend the Republic against her foreign enemies.”
“Yes,” said the Colonel. “But I’m glad my duties involve these.”
He patted the receiver of his sub-machine gun.
“The work is cleaner, in my opinion.”
“The Republic is fortunate to have soldiers of your quality, sir,” Daniel said. “And certainly I’m fortunate on this operation.”
“Captain?” said the young aide. “If I may ask–what do you foresee as the Brotherhood’s role in your operation? You haven’t said.”
“Ah!” said Daniel with a nod. His face shivered into his familiar grin, like ice breaking up in the rush of a spring freshet. “Yes, I mentioned that Bolton would shortly be joining the Friends of Cinnabar?”
The Brethren nodded, their expressions all to a degree guarded.
“Well, gentlemen,” Daniel said. “Your regiment and my Milton are the instruments which going to make that happen.”
Even if the soldiers had wanted to reply, the thunder of the Wartburg dropping down to land beyond the berm would have drowned them out.
West of Base Alpha, Fonthill
The innate goodness of the Lower Orders of Mankind was an article of faith with Adele’s mother, Evadne Rolfe Mundy. Apparently the Lower Orders–Evadne capitalized the words–had a simple purity which brought them closer to Nature and therefore to The Good.
After the Mundy estates were confiscated during the Proscriptions, Adele had spent many years as a member of those Lower Orders. She therefore viewed them without her mother’s blinders of ignorance. Adele had no great affection for civilized Man, but Man in a state of nature stank.
That was particularly true when–she gave Wiley a cold smile–one member of the Lower Orders had just disemboweled another member on the mud bank beside you. She said, “Senator Forbes has arrived at Base Alpha aboard the RCS Milton and begun to bring Fonthill under proper Cinnabar government. As part of that process–”
Adele moved sideways to allow Tovera to get out of the barge without stepping in Selsmark’s reeking entrails. The other freed captive, Gibbs, remained seated at the transom. He was still holding the control wheel, and his face was as stiff as if he’d died of strychnine poisoning.
“–Senator Forbes has granted all current Fonthill residents an amnesty for crimes committed before her arrival.”