SOMEGOLDEN HARBOR is starting to appear in the bookstores now, so this will be the last snippet from the novel.
SOME GOLDEN HARBOR – snippet 86:
The computer assembled five alternative courses in red, orange, yellow, green, and blue. The Pellegrinian cruiser was a bead on a white oval; a predicted course only, and one that would probably change when the Princess Cecile began to climb out of the gravity well.
Daniel chose Option Red and pressed Execute. "Ship, this is Six," he said. "We're rising to orbit but the maneuvers are likely to be severe. Don't leave your stations, out. Break, Signals, how the hell did you do that, over?"
He'd chosen Red because it involved full thrust. He wouldn't normally have lifted at such high acceleration, but the Sissie couldn't afford not to react instantly if the Duilio launched more missiles.
A starship isn't streamlined. The Sissie's increasing speed through the atmosphere made her shudder fiercely. A bang! and fluttering followed by a series of crackles from the hull meant a furled sail had carried away and been shredded in the airstream. They'd be lucky if they didn't lose at least one antenna before they got out of the thicker layers of air.
The riggers waiting to go onto the hull gripped the railing around the foyer; they didn't have seats and restraint webs to keep them from flying around. The rigging suits, heavy at the best of times, must be crushing now. For Daniel, simply moving his fingers on the virtual keyboard was a strain.
"Six," said Adele and paused. Daniel inset a tiny image of her face at the top of the PPI display which now filled his display. She looked as worn as the blade of an old kitchen knife; her eyes closed briefly. "I sent the message to the Rainha on tight beam microwave; it doesn't have laser. And retransmitted on short wave as though it were originating there. I don't think the Duilio's direction finding apparatus is good enough to be sure it isn't coming from the missile control trailer. Over."
"Out," Daniel said. There was a great deal more he'd have liked to say, but this wasn't the time for it… and anyway, there was no need. The way she'd come out of the Medicomp when violent acceleration warned her that something was going on showed she understood how much he and the Princess Cecile depended on her.
"Cruiser launching," Blantyre announced. Her voice came over the intercom; Adele was handling commo again, taking a less Draconian approach than Vesey had done. "Two missi–no, four missiles, over."
Again Daniel didn't need the warning, but he was pleased to see that Blantyre was keeping an eye out. He adjusted his yoke a point to port but didn't change the rate of climb. The corvette was rising through ten thousand feet, still low enough that missiles from the Duilio would pass through too much atmosphere to hit a moving target.
He'd plotted the Sissie's course at 90-degrees to the cruiser's. They'd still intersect in plane, though at considerable differences in altitude. The high deflection made the job of the Duilio's missileer more difficult and gave Daniel more options to evade.
In the event, this salvo too plunged down at Mandelfarne Island. By accident or design one hit the Greybudd. There was a bright red flash, then an iridescent flare of the fusion bottle ruptured.
The other missiles cratered the island, though Daniel couldn't tell the extent of the damage without going to more effort than he had time or reason to expend. Ap Glynn must be in an insane rage to ignore the thousand or so Pellegrinian troops in the impact zone, either as prisoners or still resisting.
"Captain, Councilor Corius is contacting the Duilio through a satellite link," Adele said. "I'm cutting you into the conversation." Noticeably later, "Out!"
"–isten you Bennarian dog-turd!" ap Glynn said. His vocabulary seemed limited, though his stress was some excuse. "There's a state of war, all right, between you and me, screw Bennaria! You're not on Bennaria, you're here, and you're going to surrender or starve, do you get me? No ship lands on Dunbar's World, anywhere on Dunbar's World, until you surrender and Port Dunbar surrenders. Screw the rest of this bloody planet, but you and the port turn yourself over to Field Marshal Arruns. Over."
"Power Room, prepare to switch to High Drive in one minute, out," Daniel warned. That'd be cutting it close; he'd probably wait eighty seconds so that erosion of the motors wouldn't require their replacement before a voyage of any length.
He was wearing the thrusters badly as it was, and the Sissie's reaction mass tanks were edging toward fifty percent capacity. There hadn't been time to refill them after the corvette's hop from Ollarville, and the plasma drive was inefficient compared to antimatter conversion.
"Captain ap Glynn," said Corius' voice. It was definitely the Councilor speaking, not Colonel Quinn. "You have no authority to blockade a free and independent world. This is piracy, and you'll be hanged by your own government if you attempt it."
"Ship, lighting the High Drive," Daniel said, executing with the words. For a moment the sharper, smoother note of the antimatter annihilation increased the acceleration, but Daniel shut down his thrusters as soon as he was sure the High Drive was running properly. He'd have liked to hold the higher rate, but he simply didn't have the reaction mass to dare.
"Cruiser launching," Blantyre announced. "One missile only. Out."
Though the Princess Cecile had reached the troposphere by now, occasional pings indicated damage from air molecules. They weren't frequent enough to make Daniel regret his judgment.
He echoed the gunnery screen. Sun had resumed control of both turrets, slewing them to follow the Pellegrinian cruiser. Missiles followed a ballistic course after they'd burned their reaction mass in achieving the fraction of light speed that made them so devastating on impact. Their tracks were as predictable as those of their targets.
A ship which found itself on an intersecting course with a missile could fight its own inertia by trying to accelerate or decelerate out of the target zone, and it could attempt to deflect the missile. Plasma bolts blasted away the missile's own structure as reaction mass and skewed its direction. At the present short range, Sun's little 4-inch weapons weren't going to do much good, but he intended to die trying.
Daniel grinned. That was a spacer's joke
The missile streaked downward rather than toward the Princess Cecile. Ap Glynn hadn't replied verbally, but he'd sent a missile into the center of Port Dunbar to show what he thought of Councilor Corius' statement.
The Princess Cecile was out of the gravity well and heading away. At no point would their course be precisely in line with that of the orbiting cruiser–there was no reason to tempt fate–but apart from that consideration, Daniel only wanted to put distance between them and Dunbar's World as quickly as he could.
"Captain," said Adele, "Field Marshal Arruns has ordered the Duilio to remain above Dunbar's World and carry out a complete blockade, as Captain ap Glynn proposed. They do not intend to pursue us." A pause. "Over."
"Adele, they'd left their antennas up and sails spread while they were in orbit," Daniel said, a friend speaking to a friend instead of captain to signals officer. "They can't match our acceleration–they'd tear their rigging off if they did. Once we got out of the atmosphere with the planet between us and them for the next ten minutes, we were free."
He stretched his arms, first overhead and then out to his sides. He chuckled.
"Ship, this is Six," he said, his voice echoing itself from the public address speakers in each compartment. "We can't fight a cruiser, even a sorry-ass Pellegrinian cruiser, without missiles, so we're returning to Bennaria to get some. And then, my fellow Sissies, we're coming back. Six out!"