SOME GOLDEN HARBOR – snippet 67:



CHAPTER 18: Haven City on Pellegrino


            "I don't bloody like the look of this," said Woetjans as a third police vehicle pulled in line with the others, completely blocking the end of the dock at which the Princess Cecile had tied up. "Sure you want to handle it this way, Six?"


            "It's all going to plan, Woetjans," Daniel said. "I'd worry if they weren't waiting for me."


            That was technically true, but he was injecting a little conscious cheeriness into his tone for the sake of the bosun and the nearest of the liberty party. Daniel could admit in the silence of his mind that the riot control vehicles were imposing even though he knew they mounted water cannon rather than plasma weapons,


            Wearing his best 2nd class uniform without medal ribbons, Daniel walked beside Woetjans at the head of the spacers going on liberty. His tailored gray and black garments looked out of place in that company. All members of the Sissie's crew were veterans with many years of service to commemorate in their liberty rigs. Patches embroidered with scenes of exotic landfalls covered what had started out as utilities, and varicolored ribbons, some with legends, dangled from their seams.


            The cops braced as the spacers bore down on them. Daniel had formed his Sissies into a column of twos so that they didn't fill the dock as they approached. The party looked formidable even when it wasn't deliberately threatening, however.


            Daniel'd also ordered the spacers to leave behind the short truncheons and knuckledusters that were normally part of their liberty paraphernalia. That last had caused complaint, but the RCN encourages resource in its personnel. They could use bottles and barstools if the need arose.


            They're spacers on liberty; when the need arises.


            "Good–" Daniel called. Was it morning or afternoon? He'd forgotten to check local time! "Good day, gentlemen! I'm Commander Daniel Leary, RCN. I'm the owner and captain of the yacht Princess Cecile, and this is a liberty party from my crew. They're hoping to spend a month's pay in the entertainment establishments of Haven City."


            "Yee-ha!" called a Sissie. As a breed, spacers were unlikely to be cowed by the presence of police, but Woetjans turned with a scowl to silence the enthusiasm. This wouldn't be a good time for things to get out of hand.


            "Commander Leary?" said a pudgy civilian with receding hair and a brush moustache. "I'm Superintendent Otto. Some matters have come up since your previous visit to Central Haven. I'd like to discuss them with you in the Port Control Office, if you don't mind."


            "Not at all," said Daniel. "To be honest, I rather expected that. Shall we walk–"


            He nodded to the building kitty-corner across the broad street paralleling the harbor. It looked like a three-story pillbox covered with turquoise stucco.


            Mostly covered. Patches had flaked off.


            "–or would you prefer to drive me?"


            "Look, sir," Woetjans said, trying to sound calm. "Why don't the two of you talk things over aboard the Sissie? That's where customs people ought to be, right, aboard the ship they're checking?"


            "Go on about your liberty, Woetjans," Daniel said with a touch of sharpness. The bosun knew as well as he did that Otto had nothing to do with customs. "There's no problem with that, is there, Superintendent?"


            Otto hesitated, then turned to a police officer with rings of silver braid around his billed cap. "Send your men back to their usual duties, Major."


            "Shall I leave one truck–" the policeman began.


            "You shall do what I told you, Major," Otto snapped. "Let the liberty party through and go on about your duties!"


            The Major stiffened. "Right, let'em by!" he said.


            As his men parted and two of the trucks pulled forward to open a passage, he turned to Woetjans. With something like professional unctuousness he added, "We don't mind you boys having a little fun, ah, madam, but keep it in bounds. Get out of line and you'll spend the rest of your leave in the pokey, understood?"


            "Six…?" said the bosun plaintively.


            "We're visitors, Woetjans," Daniel said. "The Pellegrinian authorities have some reasonable concerns. I'm happy to allay them. Go on ahead, but I'm sure I'll be rejoining you shortly."


            The two civilians flanking Otto were tall, broad men, bigger than any of the green-uniformed police. From a distance Otto would be a slightly rumpled joke. His cheeks were soft, his mouth weak, and his eyes as hard and piercing as a pair of ice picks.


            "I'm glad to find you so reasonable, Commander," he said. "We perhaps need not go to my office after all. We will sit in my car."


            "Wherever you please, Superintendent," said Daniel. He started toward the nearest of the riot control vehicles, but Otto gestured instead to an aircar parked just beyond them. It looked nondescript, but when Otto opened the door of the passenger compartment Daniel saw a luxury that hadn't been hinted by the polarized windows.


            Otto closed the door behind them. His aides remained outside, one standing at either end of the vehicle.


            "You described yourself as owner and captain of the Princess Cecile, Commander Leary," Otto said. "When you docked here a week ago, you stated–stated on oath, I might add–that the captain was one Elspeth Vesey. She signed the port records."


            "I hired Vesey," said Daniel. "Quite a clever young lady. I honestly thought she was up to the job, but by the time we reached Bennaria it was obvious that I'd been wrong. I'd brought her along too quickly, I suppose, or…."


            He gave an expressive shrug. "To tell the truth, Superintendent… there's a lot written about a woman being every bit as good as a man and I dare say there's some cases where it's true. Though I gather you folks here around Ganpat's Reach have never bought into that as strongly as they do back on Xenos?"


            "No," said Otto. "We are simple folk. We do not believe bullshit just because somebody who says he's a sophisticate from Cinnabar says it is true."


            "Well, there's a lot to be said for that attitude," Daniel said, nodding firmly. "As one man to another, well–of course a woman isn't fit to captain a starship, not on a voyage like this one! I have no doubt that Vesey'll marry well on Bennaria, have a lot of children, and be a great deal happier than if she'd stayed on Xenos and tried to force herself to be something no woman is."