SOME GOLDEN HARBOR – snippet 31:

He laughed. “I suppose I ought to regret that choice,” he said, “but I don’t. I don’t care that some dimwit from Bennaria gets angry any more than the Academy Provosts did.”

“I was puzzled by the timing of Wrenn’s appearance on the Sibyl,” Adele said, cascading additional text across Daniel’s display. He glanced at it but kept his attention on his friend instead; she’d give him the information he needed in an organized and compact fashion, a much better plan than him trying to sort the raw data himself. “Since it didn’t seem random. I found–”

More text in the corner of Daniel’s eye; he continued to watch Adele and to smile as she worked, completely absorbed with her task.

“–that as soon as Councilor Fahey had returned to his townhouse, he called Admiral Wrenn and informed him you were inspecting the ships and installations at the Squadron Pool. You see from the transcript–”

“Summarize it, please,” Daniel said mildly.

Adele looked up, caught his smile, and managed one of her own. “Yes, of course,” she said. “While the Councilor doesn’t refer directly to the fact Wrenn flunked out of the Academy, he’s obviously wording his comments in a way to remind Wrenn of the fact. ‘These Academy-trained Cinnabar officers think the sun shines out of their asses,’ was one of his lines. It strikes me as an effective job of goading Wrenn into actions that he’ll reasonably regret.”

She frowned and added, “I don’t see why Fahey’s opposing us, though.”

“He’s not,” said Daniel. “He resents Waddell’s power, so he’s using my visit to embarrass him. Fahey doesn’t gain anything, but he irritates his rival. And he doesn’t think his involvement’ll be traced back to him.”

Daniel shrugged. He smiled, but he felt suddenly tired.

“It’s the sort of thing my father’d do,” he said. “Except that my father would probably have done it better.”

“I have enough to regret about my own actions,” said Adele coolly, “that I’m not going to become depressed over the behavior of foreigners whom I neither know well nor care for. And as it chances, my trip back to the ship wasn’t as uneventful as I’d expected either. I’ve met Yuli Corius. He arranged to meet me, rather.”

“Did he indeed?” said Daniel, his expression sharpening. “And what was that in aid of?”

“He told me he intends to defeat the Pellegrinian invasion of Dunbar’s World,” Adele said. “By himself, if necessary; but he’d like us to work with him.”

“By himself?” Daniel repeated. “Can he do that, do you think? From the way Waddell was talking….”

He let his voice trail off. Adele had been at the same meeting; he didn’t have to repeat what was said there. Besides, anything Councilor Waddell said had to be taken with a grain of salt.

“I’m still working on that,” Adele said. “Corius has rented four large transports, which implies he’s serious about moving a significant number of troops somewhere. They’re at his estate eighty miles up the River Noir from Charlestown.”

More data appeared on Daniel’s display; this time he did look at it. The ships were the Greybudd, IMG 40, Todarov, and Zephyr; 3,000-ton freighters of the type standard in Ganpat’s Reach.

His hope had been wrong: they weren’t warships and couldn’t be converted to warships. Two of the transports mounted single 10-cm plasma cannon; the other pair had pods of unguided 8-inch rockets, the sort of light armament that pirates used to cripple their prey. By no stretch of the imagination could they tackle a cruiser, even a cruiser crewed by Pellegrinians.

“On a short run,” said Daniel. He was thinking out loud as much as he was informing his companion. “You could pack three thousand people aboard them. A run from here to Dunbar’s World, that is. But soldiers–not nearly so many, not if they’ve got any kit at all. And even three thousand troops won’t throw Arruns off Dunbar’s World. Corius’s going the wrong way about it if that’s really what he plans. He ought to be looking for warships.”

He pursed his lips. “Do you believe him?” he asked.

“I don’t disbelieve him,” Adele said. “He’s a clever man and clearly a bold one.” She smiled faintly. “Rash, in fact. He nearly got himself killed this afternoon, and I can easily imagine him miscalculating other risks just as badly.”

She paused. “I don’t disbelieve him, Daniel,” she said. “But I certainly don’t trust him.”

Daniel laughed and got up from the console. “Based on what I know thus far,” he said, “I see no way to accomplish our mission. That doesn’t mean I’m giving up.”

Adele sniffed. “I didn’t imagine you were,” she said dryly.

“No, of course,” said Daniel in mild embarrassment. “Sorry.”

He’d been talking for effect rather than talking to Adele. He didn’t need to convince her of anything, and she wasn’t the sort to be swayed by words alone anyway.

“We need more information,” he said. “We’ll get it–here, I think, though I’ll go to Dunbar’s World if we’ve explored all the avenues here.”

“Corius may be the answer,” Adele said. “There’s his assembly tomorrow.”

“Right,” agreed Daniel. “And tonight I’m going out to see what I can learn around the harbor. Spacers may tell me what the Councilors wouldn’t.”

He grinned and added, “Besides, it’s been a long voyage. I’m looking forward to having a drink on the ground.”

Adele nodded. “I’m going out myself,” she said. “I’d like to get a neutral opinion about the situation here on Bennaria before we pick a side–whether Waddell or Corius.”

Daniel felt his lips purse; he knew Adele was a spy, but that wasn’t a business he felt comfortable around. “Well, I trust your judgment, of course,” he said, and turned toward the hatch.

“Oh, not one of Mistress Sand’s people, Daniel,” she replied with a hint of amusement. “His name’s Krychek, and I have an introduction to him from an old family friend. His ship’s berthed at the other end of this island. From the way he responded when I called him this evening, he’ll be very glad to talk to someone whom he considers civilized. The members of the Council of Bennaria and their associates don’t qualify as civilized in his opinion, I gather.”

Daniel laughed as he cycled the hatch open. “Well,” he said, “Master Krychek and I agree about something, at any rate. Good luck to you!”