SOME GOLDEN HARBOR – snippet 54:



            Barnes and Dasi followed, forcing the merchants back by their presence; then the whole mixed entourage flowed into the room. Moorer surreptitiously scooped up the pistol and dropped it into a desk drawer.


            "We've been trying to get the Governor to act," said Beltras, the man in the string tie. His tone started out resigned but quickly rose into anger. "Will he? No, not him!"


            "The EPL commandeers our property and the Governor says, ''Too bad,' that's all!" said Conning. "Some governor. Some government!"


            "Well, what do you expect me to do?" Zorhachy demanded. "Do I have an army? There's me and Moorer, that's all, and I don't know why he stays!"


            "I won't leave you, sir!" Moorer said.


            Perhaps brave but completely ineffectual, Adele thought. And young. Though in years, as old as Daniel.


            She had her information–from the Federal data banks–in the form of a petition for redress by shippers named Worthouse, Beltras and Conning. It stated that their cargoes of agricultural produce had been taken without pay by members of the Eastern Provinces League claiming to be the government. The shippers demanded that the Federal authorities either recover their property or pay them compensation at market value.


            Good luck, Adele thought. And the shippers probably felt the same way, but they were following up their petition sent to the Federal capital, moved from Port Dunbar to the inland city of Sinclos, with a visit to Governor Zorhachy himself.


            "All I have is my office, this room!" said Zorhachy, rising to his feet. He was a tubby little man with a pencil moustache and a receding hairline. Withal, he managed to project a certain dignity. "I thought when the good Councilor appeared that it was Rasmussen and his animals come to take that too. Perhaps they would shoot me as they have shot so many."


            He waved his arm. "Master Worthouse," he said. "If the sacrifice of my life will return your property, I will give it now! Only show me how this can help you?"


            "You sir," said Corius, pointing to Worthouse. "Can you supply rations for two thousand men for a period of a week or so? Till I decide on my next step."


            Worthouse shrugged. "The three of us can," he said. "We can bring in that much food over the next week or month or year. If we're paid–"


            "You'll be paid," snapped Corius.


            "And if the EPL doesn't hijack it, the way they did what we had in our warehouses," Worthouse concluded. "It was ready to be sent on to Port Dunbar like we were contracted to do."


            "How many armed men does the EPL have, anyway?" Daniel asked. Adele noticed that although he didn't seem to raise his voice, his words rang clearly through a room which was by now full of people.


            "A thousand," Moorer said. "Perhaps a few more, but they aren't well armed. If the Ministry of the Interior in Sinclos would just listen to us and send a battalion, we could return law and order to Ollarville. Instead they badger us to ship supplies we can't gather because of the EPL!"


            "I think between me and the Councilor, we can open normal supply routes, Governor," Daniel said. He grinned. "I'd venture that my Sissies can do the job by ourselves, but in that case I'd have to use the ship's cannon. I'm afraid your city wouldn't be the better for it."


            "That won't be necessary," Corius said. "Quinn, meet with these gentlemen–"


            He nodded to the shippers.


            "–and get a plan in place. I want to start receiving local supplies by tomorrow morning at the latest, to conserve our present stocks."


            "It'll be a pleasure, sir," Quinn said. "It'll be good to blood the boys before we take them to Port Dunbar, besides. You lot–"


            In a peremptory tone, his eyes flicking from Worthouse to Beltras and Conning.


            "We'll find a room right now and sort this. Boys, let us by. Blaisdel, I'll need you for the commo back to the Greybudd."


            "I'll leave you to handle matters," Corius said to the room at large. He nodded to the Governor, then turned to the door.


            "Commander Leary?" he added as quietly as the bustle allowed. "Lady Mundy? Might I have a word with you in the hall?"


            Adele put away her data unit. Dasi and Barnes made room for her to step down into the milling crowd by bracing their arms and pushing forward. Corius and Fallert left the office. Hogg followed closely while Daniel waited for Adele. Tovera brought up the rear with a tight grin.


            "What I'm planning to do," said Corius in the entranceway in a cocoon of his men and the Sissies, "is to fly my aircar to Port Dunbar, just me and Colonel Quinn. I have people I can trust to do the ash and trash jobs here while we're gone, but it's clear that I'll need to see the military situation for myself to be able to make a useful decision."


            Daniel nodded. "I'm inclined to agree," he said. "The Sissie doesn't have an aircar, but if I can buy or rent one here…?"


            "No, of course that's not necessary," Corius said. "I would be very pleased for you and Lady Mundy to accompany me. Shall we say, we leave at dawn tomorrow?"


            "Adele?" Daniel said with a cocked eyebrow.


            The Princess Cecile contained useful tools that she wouldn't be able to carry in an aircar, but she didn't expect to need particularly exotic equipment to break local security systems. And the Sissie couldn't approach the battle site directly without risking attack by the Pellegrinian missiles.


            "Yes, of course," Adele said. "There's nothing in Ollarville that I'm going to regret leaving behind."


            Everyone who heard her chuckled–but it was the simple truth, as were most of the things she said. She wondered if some day she'd figure out why her telling the truth struck people as funny.


            Perhaps it was just that they heard it so rarely.