SOME GOLDEN HARBOR – snippet 70:



            "Which brings me to the purpose of my visit," said Adele. "Master Nordeen has arranged for eight antimatter converters to arrive by barge alongside the Stoddard this evening. A number of trained spacers will also arrive. They will begin the task of replacing your faulty units. They'll be staying on board the ship while they work."


            "We need the motors too," Stonewell said quickly. "The converters were the problem, right, but we didn't catch them in time before they'd ate up the motors."


            "New motors will be brought as soon as the work on the converters is complete," Nordeen said, still staring into nothingness with a beatific expression.


            "Well, this is great," said Evans in surprise. "I'd like it happened a couple months ago, but I'll take it, sure. Ah–how's this being paid for? Because Nordeen, you said–"


            "Master Nordeen is pledging his personal credit–"


            "The credit of Bright Dragon Trading Company," Nordeen corrected mildly.


            "The credit of his company, that is," continued Adele, angry with herself for the error, "to expedite the work. He in turn is protected by a guaranty by the Republic of Cinnabar, though that won't appear in any documents on Pellegrino. Ultimately Hinshaw Transit, the Stoddard's owners of record, will pay the costs. We're merely expediting the process."


            The ship's officers looked at one another. The men seemed puzzled, but Linde's expression had become perfectly blank. She didn't know precisely what was coming next, but she'd clearly guessed that if the Republic was putting up such a considerable sum of money, the Republic expected value for its investment. If she'd known that the guaranty wasn't from RCN funds but rather from a secret account controlled by Mistress Sand, she'd have been even more concerned.


            "From this moment until the workmen leave the Stoddard," Adele said, "the four of you must remain on board also. I'm sorry for the inconvenience, but it's necessary to prevent any discussion of what's going on until the operation is over."


            "Just who the bloody hell are you to be telling us we can't leave the ship?" said Hartopp with his voice getting louder with each word. "Now look! I don't care if you're RCN or one of God's angels, you don't give me orders here. This is Pellegrino! You're off your patch, girlie!"


            "Can I give you orders?" asked Tovera, standing behind and to the side of the four officers. She'd set the attaché case down and was openly holding the sub-machine gun she kept in it. She giggled. "I'm not RCN. I'm not an angel either."


            "Bloody hell," Stonewell said quietly. He stared at the gun as though it'd hypnotized him.


            "I hope not," said Adele, "but it could certainly become a bloody hell if you attempt to violate my instructions. If you do as you're told, you'll be able to lift within ten days according to the estimate I was given by Commander Leary. Is the situation clear?"


            "If you shoot us, it's piracy," Linde said. She'd been looking at Tovera's gun, but now she raised her eyes to meet Adele's. "It doesn't matter that you're RCN or that the honorary consul–"


            She used the Kostroman term for the office both Cinnabar and the Alliance called a consular agent.


            "–agrees with you. It'd be murder and piracy."


            "Yes," said Adele, "you're quite right. More to the point, it'd bother me a good deal–"


            She lifted the pistol in her pocket just enough to give them a glimpse of it. The barrel shroud had a faint rainbow pattern from one of the times she'd used it in rain heavy enough to quench the hot steel.


            "–to shoot one or all of you. But I've killed people just as innocent as you are in the past, and I'm ready to do it again."


            "It won't bother me, though," said Tovera, grinning. "In fact, I like shooting people."


            That was quite true. Adele knew that Tovera was speaking for effect to help her mistress convince these strangers that cooperation was their only survivable option, but it was still bothersome to hear the quiet gusto in her voice.


            Three Power Room techs in liberty rigs walked up the boarding ramp. "Ma'am?" called the leader, Tech 3 Samson. His companions were wipers. "Is this too soon to board?"


            I'll need to get working outfits for the whole crew, Adele thought. She'd mention it to Nordeen before he left.


            "This is fine," she said, raising her voice so that the Sissies could hear her. She returned her gaze to the Stoddard's officers.


            "These are the first of your workmen," she said. "There'll be thirty all told. My servant–"


            She nodded to Tovera.


            "–and I will be staying aboard also."


            "The barge with the converters will arrive within the hour," said Nordeen placidly. His eyes were still directed–inward? Into the infinite? Elsewhere, at any rate. He was clearly following events, however.


            "Master Hartopp, please show these men to their accommodations," Adele said. "And Mistress Linde, I need to discuss the workmen's rations with you."


            She looked out of the hatch; another party of Sissies, riggers this time, was heading down the street. Several of them held bottles, but they weren't drunk as a spacer understood the term.


            Adele looked at the Stoddard's officers again; she found herself grinning slightly. "One further thing," she said. "The owner of the company you work for, Hinshaw Transit, is Corder Leary. The success of our mission here may well determine whether his son, Commander Daniel Leary, survives the next two weeks. Now–"


            She paused, considering the way to phrase this. "You may think you can escape me and Tovera there," she said. "But I assure you, you will not survive if you cross Speaker Leary. And I'm as much an expert on that as anyone still alive!"