SOME GOLDEN HARBOR – snippet 62:
Adele stepped into the warehouse office and communications center, a small room on the flat roof. Under other circumstances you could call it a penthouse, but she didn't suppose the word applied here.
Under other circumstances, Adele Mundy could be called a librarian. Not now.
She glanced at the modern equipment. It was operating properly, just the way she'd left it four hours ago before she went to sleep. She hadn't thought she'd be able to get her eyes to close, but she'd been wrong. She'd learned a great deal since Daniel brought her into the RCN.
Instead of sitting at the console, Adele turned abruptly and walked toward the end of the roof overlooking the barge dock and the harbor beyond. There was no railing, and fitful breezes flicked across the water; she stopped a full pace back but even then felt uncomfortably close.
She smiled. Daniel would've gone to the edge without thinking about it.
"Is something wrong, mistress?" Tovera asked. She'd been standing just outside the office; she'd to step aside quickly when Adele reemerged.
"No, nothing," said Adele, looking out to sea. "Some people prefer seeing things with their own eyes, you know. I find that much less informative than my instruments."
An automatic impeller to the east pecked out short bursts. Even without her goggles, Adele could see the haze of light from the discharges; the gun was within the Pellegrinian lines, firing into the city.
Dust spurted skyward; several seconds later Adele heard the rattle of masonry collapsing. Another building had been reduced to ruin, or more complete ruin. She couldn't imagine that result aided anyone at all in the human universe, but that wasn't a question she'd been asked to answer.
Mandelfarne Island was in the direction she was looking, but it was under the horizon even though she was thirty feet above the water. The mast-mounted antennas behind her had a direct line on it, though. And somewhere out there in the darkness was an aircar heading out in a wide arc that would eventually carry it around the back of the Pellegrinian base.
Tovera didn't say any more. Did she understand why Adele was standing here?
Adele sniffed. She herself didn't fully understand, so it was unlikely that Tovera did. She returned to the office and closed the door between her and her servant before sitting down at the console and getting to work.
She'd been surprised at the quality of the commo suite, not least because government electronics on Dunbar's World had proven old, shoddy, and in poor repair. This wasn't the government, however. Though the Merchants' Guild collectively ran the planet much as was the case on Bennaria, the individual houses were in fierce competition with one another.
The office here–and presumably the similar offices in Port Dunbar's other warehouses–was set up to communicate by laser and tight-beam microwave with ships both in orbit and while floating in the harbor. Neither method was completely safe, but coupled with a good encryption program either would protect commercial information from rivals long enough to retain a competitive advantage.
Tovera had disconnected the identification transponder from Corius' vehicle. A transmitter could call enemy attention to the car whose best chance of survival would come from being ignored. Sensors sensitive enough to keep a laser beam aligned with a ship in orbit, however, were easily capable of tracking the electromagnetic signature of an aircar's motors a few miles away. All it took was the correct software, and Adele's personal data unit provided that.
Adele placed the car as a blue dot in a display centered on Mandelfarne Island; the scale changed as she watched, decreasing as the car neared the base and the image area shrank accordingly. Pellegrinian emitters–communications, range-finding, targeting, and even recreational–were red dots with brief legends indicating their type and intensity. Full data would appear as a sidebar if the computer determined the threat to the aircar had increased or if Adele moved her cursor over a particular dot.
Laymen were amazed to see what information Adele could draw from the simplest electronic signatures by matching them against the information in her database. A search radar with a particular pulse frequency and amplitude was a standard fitment for the command unit of Alliance ground batteries of 5-cm plasma cannon; the same weapon but with a different radar armed Alliance airborne armored personnel carriers.
Arrruns' troops used both types of radar. Twelve cannon in gun pits guarded the perimeter of Mandelfarne Island, and five APCs escorted the barges ferrying supplies from the island to Arruns' fortified camp in the east of Port Dunbar. From personal experience as well as her data banks, Adele knew that the APCs were very lightly armored; even empty they weren't nearly as fast or as nimble as Corius' aircar.
But an aircar couldn't outrun a plasma bolt. Even the small guns the APCs mounted could turn an aircar into a fireball and memories from hundreds of meters away.
The blue speck moved outward, skirting the northern tip of the island at a distance of ten miles. It moved slowly, keeping close to the water so that only the most careful radar operator could separate it from the clutter of wave tops.
Adele would know when the Pellegrinians noticed the car, if they did; then she would warn Daniel. Until then she remained silent, doing her job with professional skill as she did all things.
She didn't pray. A prayer by someone who didn't believe in God would be hypocritical. She knew Daniel believed in an amorphously benevolent Being somewhere, however.
Adele hoped that Daniel's prayers would be answered.